Into Africa

What do I do when I have time on my hands? What do you do when you have time on your hands?

Over the past three weeks, I have been waiting for a little cat to make an appearance. What should I do with my time while wishing and hoping?

The last ten days of my trip to Africa this summer I spent on a Photo Safari. Each day we would go into the bush and take photos of everything great and small. At the end of the day, it was not unusual to return with over one thousand frames shot with my trusty Canon DSLR.

Prior to Safari, I spent six weeks in Zimbabwe and South Africa traveling independently with my friend, Phyllis. Oh no more pictures. I was not taking quite that many photos per day on this part of the trip. Still, there were photos and more photos.

Do you have any idea how long it takes to delete and edit and figure out exactly what is worth keeping and what needs to be tossed? Spending time at my rig has offered me the golden opportunity to dive into all of these pictures and create some order to the madness.

For those of you who do not “do” Facebook, I decided to add my slideshow to a post on my blog. I must warn you, it is long-about twenty-eight minutes worth. I like how it turned out. It is not too professional but not one of those campy home movies.

Enjoy the show.

And no Elsie has not shown up.

 

In the Middle of a Grand Vacation-Life Continues

I left on my trip to Africa on July 6. I have noticed that when I travel, the rest of my life seems to stop or hesitate, while I am exploring and adventuring. Unless the news is extreme, the headlines slip into the background and I tend to live more in the moment.

Not so, on this trip. As many of you know Jim (my former husband) and I owned land in southern Colorado. I decided a year ago to put the forty five acres on the market.One fall day,  I stood on the south end of the property and realized that I could not see the northern fence line. Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the amount of acreage I now owned, alone, I realized that I did not want to continue to manage that much property.

With very mixed feelings, the land was listed last November. Land does not move fast in southern Colorado. I thought it would sit on the market for a few years and eventually sell. Not so. Two weeks after I left for Africa, I received a bid on my property. I decided to move forward. With the help of my two realtors, Robin and Rebecca and my real estate lawyer, Christina, September twelfth, I closed on the property.

A young, local couple bought the property and are planning to build their first home. I am happy about this. I knew that when I sold it, I would prefer to try to sell it to local people. Many of the local families in southwestern Colorado cannot afford to buy in this area. As southwest Colorado has become a destination area for many, the property prices have risen and often has driven the local ranchers out of the buying market. I knew it was a right thing to do.

Here is the reality of trying to sell property when one is nowhere nearby: It is difficult and I would not recommend it. In hindsight, to decrease my stress level, taking it off the market while I was out and wandering would have been a much better choice for me. There were several stressful moments regarding this sale.  I found it hard to manage everything while being so far away. Having meetings over the phone or on WhatsApp was difficult. I had to rely on people to be honest and truthful with me. I had to let people, I did not know well, manage most of the complexities of the sale. They did a fine job.

I am thankful for my traveling friend, Phyllis, who was willing to listen and support me through this process. She also, graciously disappeared when I had phone meetings. I am thankful for my sister, Ginny, who talked and texted with me. I am thankful for all the support.

Now that it is done my feelings are mixed. The property was Jim’s and my hope for our retirement and future. We were planning to build a home that was unique and different. Instead he died early and the land that once represented hope, now became a dream and a wish unfulfilled. Jim wanted to sell the property when he was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. After much discussion we held onto the property. It represented hope and a future that was yet defined. I told him if the worse should happen, I could handle it. Well the worse happened, and I became the sole caretaker for the property.

We made friends with Ron and Miss Carrie, who leased the property for their horses and mules and they have continued to support and help me manage the property. I hope they know how much I appreciate their caring and support.

Each time I release a part of me and Jim, I wonder if I by letting something go, Jim will move further and further away from my life. That makes me feel sad. He and I were a team for twenty one years. I miss him when I have news to share. I miss him when a big event, such as this occurs. I miss him when I travel. He and I were a delightful and close couple that shared everything. I know I need to move on yet I want to carry him and our time together, forward with me. My time with him, enriched and fulfilled my life. So I wonder…..

Seeing the land go on to the next owner, is important to my own healing. As the closing day came and went I have found that I am sleeping deeper and longer. My breath is easier. I feel a step or two lighter. My stress level is certainly relieved. I hope life will be just a wee bit easier.

I am getting ready to head west (currently in New Jersey). I have more personal issues to address and I have an appointment in San Diego at the end of October. It is time to stretch, yet again and get ready to return to my small RV life. Miss Elsie the cat, of course, returns to the adventure.

I know I will reflect on this whole summer in so many different ways, as I travel west. And, it may be good to travel down to southwest Colorado, visit friends and see the Aspen change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living With or Without Cancer-Getting Ready to Roll

“There’s always a story. It’s all stories, really. The sun coming up every day is a story. Everything’s got a story in it. Change the story, change the world.” – Terry Pratchett

Today I am changing my story. Instead of dying with cancer I am now living with cancer. It is possible that I am fooling myself and there is no cancer within me to live with. Well that is a cool thought.

Moores Cancer Center

Last Wednesday, with the support of Yvonne, we drove to the Moores Cancer Center at UCSD (University of California San Diego). I had a second opinion appointment with one of the primary head and neck surgeons. I define second opinions as a way to gather more information, so that I can be comfortable making a decision that will shape and define my life.

This whole complex of buildings that makes up the cancer center and other technologies are imposing as you drive in. The structures are big and impressive. There is one building that is dedicated to all things radiological speaking. The Novel Technology building is so new that the staff is not sure what it does. I was curious enough to do some on line research. It appears that it is a specialty that works with deep brain tumors and microscopic surgery. Interesting. It is good to be impressed by what I see.

My appointment went well. I met with Dr Brummond and his associates. They were kind and amazingly good listeners, especially the medical student that did the intake interview. Most of the information that I was given was not new, but that is what I wanted, a confirmation that my surgeon and endocrinologist were on the right track. I will have the other half of my thyroid removed upon my return from Africa (yes I am going). I did receive one new piece of information. This doctor feels that if the biopsy on the left thyroid comes back negative for cancer he believes I don’t need the radioactive iodine treatment. So I will gather that information into the ongoing puzzle of thyroid cancer.

Dr Brummond feels it will be OK to wait until my return in the fall to have the surgery to remove the other half of the thyroid. That is good news, really good news. I am relieved that this appointment is over and that I can begin to really plan for a trip of a lifetime. I imagine my friend and travel companion, Phyllis is glad to hear this too.

With the help of a therapist I am now getting ready to go into the final planning mode for this trip. Today I got my typhoid shot. All the other meds are gathered and ready to go. I am planning to leave San Diego this coming Monday and begin an amble east. Elsie says her bags are packed as well. I am daring to allow myself to get excited without getting overwhelmed. Living with cancer allows me to dare, to get excited, to dream. I was already getting weary of the feeling of dread that has been hanging over me. As I take each step towards Africa, the dread will disappear more and more.

My life is too short to be fearful and experience dread. That is a hard way to live. I would rather live hopefully and with a little or a lot of joy, depending on the day. These are always personal choices we all have to make every single day of our lives. Yes even you, dear reader are included here. Sometime the choice to live with hope is easy. Other days well we all have to dig a bit deeper to find that place. And so dig I shall.

Getting to Roll…New Jersey here I come….AFRICA here I come.

 

The Date-Surgery is Scheduled

A little over a week ago I got the call from the surgery scheduling department. I am going for thyroid surgery, first case of the day, April 5. That sounds so easy to say. It gets put on my calendar. I still feel strongly this is the right thing to do and yet…..

I am nervous. As soon as I got the date, seriously, within twenty four hours, I was down with a cold. I have rarely been sick, despite healing from breast cancer, Jim’s death from cancer, selling the house and other such events that show up in my life. Yet the day after being given the date for this upcoming surgery I get sick. What the heck?

This is a big leap of faith. Faith that I have chosen the right course of action. Faith in myself. Faith in my doctors. Faith in the system. Faith in just about everything. Here is what I know, I feel strongly that this is the correct course of action. That has not wavered. I really like my surgeon. He is kind and strong and competent and treats me like an intelligent human being. This is a good thing. I also like my endocrinologist. He is another good man who has never said the words…”there is no need to worry”. I asked him not to ever say those words after I first met him and he never has. He is also knowledgable and competent and compassionate. I feel like we are a team.

I am getting my alternative healing team on board as well. I want to go into surgery as healthy and strong as I can be. It is time to book appointments for massages (Beth), acupuncture (Gayle) and myofascial release (Kelly). My background is in holistic health education-that is what my masters says-so I want a complete and whole team to help me go into surgery and heal in record time after surgery. It is a commitment I make so that I can be back into my life fully as soon as I can.

One recovers from colds. I am in the recovery phase. I am glad to be out and about and seeing the world at large, after lingering on the comfy chair in my friend Phyllis’s condo, watching Marvel Comic movies and sniffling and sleeping away five days of my life. Thor is still one of my all time favorites.

The good part is that Phyllis and I have a huge handle on our upcoming trip to Africa this summer. Whoo, planning takes time. Despite my sniffling and sneezing we are down to the last few reservations. Africa is on the radar. It certainly gives me something to look forward to. Now it is time to get down to reading about South Africa and Kenya. I need to learn Lightroom (I just subscribed). It is time to delve more into my camera and find more magic in the camera body and it’s lenses. Ooh and I get to go shopping.

First stop: Victoria Falls

Here is something I have learned about myself over the last many years. I am not fond of planning holidays. Jim always had to sit me down and firm up plans after days of putting it off. I love to travel. I am not a big fan of planning. And…I used to be a tour manager. What? How does that work?  I don’t know. I actually enjoyed putting together a tour. The more I focused on the planning the smoother the tour went.

I tend to be lazy. My traveling in a mobile home, my RV, has given me the ability to decide at the last minute. What direction am I heading? Who or what do I want to see? Does that campground look good? How about a road into the National Forest or BLM? I find this lifestyle lends itself to last minute decisions.

For now, I am once again stationary in San Diego. I have a great support team of friends around me. Even though I am stubborn and think I can “do it on my own”, I know that I will reach out to all these people who have supported me without question over the past six years and longer. I am glad they are around. I am glad they understand my stubbornness and show up any way.

And then there are those of you who are far away or who I have never met. With all the support known and unknown, I am ready to walk forward to April 5. And..I will come out the other side ready to travel east.

Always Moving Forward.