Whalechaser's Musings

No Matter Where You Go...
There You Are
Make the Best of It

Saturday, July 25, 2015

I Thought it was Back -- You Know...I'M BAACCKK!

I scheduled my trip to France and the Normandy Beaches so that the end of it snuggled right up to my  Pet-CAT and other invasive scans that most every cancer survivor has to endure. For me, for now, it is every six months. Seems like ALL THE TIME. But, really, it is better than every three months. So far. So Good.

Three and a half years being cancer free gives one a feeling of false bravado.  Like...this whole thing is part of my past. So my Oncologist walked in with a great big smile (as always) and was delighted to tell me that every thing in the lung was great, no hot spots the scar tissues are fine -- everything great.


This is where the infamous however clause comes in to play. There is a spot on the back of my tongue.  Actually, it is way down in my throat. Then very clinically the Dr. says,  lung cancer survivors have a higher propensity for head and neck cancer. The shock mode comes to the fore very easily for me now and I take a minute or two to say -- yeah, but we can fix it right? Yes we can. But first...

the biopsy. We need confirmation.

A week later I am in the ENT's office and he is probing, and squirting stuff and examining etc. Yep. It's something alright. I will schedule a biopsy at the hospital next week. Here's your instructions.  Call me if you have questions. There's the exit.

Well, maybe it wasn't quite that abrupt, but shock will do that to you.

The procedure only took a couple of hours and I was surprised that I felt pretty alright afterward. It made me question why I needed to hire a caregiver for the first 24 hours, but I did. If I have learned anything at all from my cha-cha with cancer its that you don't put yourself through any unnecessary risk if you don't have to. A few hours later I was beginning to see why I might want someone around to help me. The drugs and the pain make for a bad combination.  Anyway, I was able to sleep mostly through the night and the next day I experienced the significant pain that was to be my constant companion for the next ten days or so. I was learning to enjoy smoothies and mashed potatoes.  I actually discovered (for the second time) Stouffers Mac and Cheese...hands down the BEST!  Well, don't forget, the pain, the drugs and my limited food options.

So I can barely drink coffee, forget all my favorite crunchy snacks, I am lucky to get any regular soft food down for two weeks. I can't tell you how many times I sent a silent grateful prayer up to the Gods that I discovered Gelato on my trip to Florence several years ago. This is how one passes the waiting time until the results come in.  The appointment was Friday. Fortunately, I not only had my Meals on Wheels run to keep me occupied, I discovered that they had expanded it a bit and my normal 1.5 hour run took over 2.5 hours.  You have to be grateful for these little blessings.  Of course it meant that I would have no time for lunch, but I wasn't all that hungry anyway.

The visit was pretty short. The Dr. came in smiled and while handing me the copies of the results said it looks like you are cancer free, it was only inflammation of some sort. Well, now I am in shock again, but this time of a different sort. Wait, what? Really? He went over the findings and said unless I have trouble he doesn't expect to see me again.

Well, thank you very much.  Really.

Thank you very much.

How was your month?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Upper Amazon, Ecuador

More photos from the Upper Amazon.  This shot is taken on a riverbank and for some reason butterflies found the area very enticing. There must have been something in the water or mixed with the sand that kept them coming back.
Not too far from our dining hall was an elevated rack which held an entire bunch (like a hundred) bananas. The bananas were green and I wondered why they were sitting out in the sun unattended. After a couple of days I was distracted by a raucous sound...at least thirty monkeys were partying over their 'newly' discovered treasure.  I think I get it now!
After leaving our lodge, we travelled to  Coco a town in the western upper amazon. It was the closest thing to civilization that we had seen in days, and yet it had all the charm of a remote village. I loved walking through the streets with our guide.  Here we walked through an open air market, there were lots of them, but this one had too many interesting things to pass up.
A bowl full of those infamous grubs. Yes, these were still alive too.  They were swimming in water. On the grill you can see a few of them being cooked on skewers...that seems to be the method of choice.
The fish there were amazing, but man does not live by fish alone...so you could grab a chicken or two instead.
This was our mode of getting to the airport.  It was just a big truck with benches installed across the bed.  Climbing up was a challenge for some and the open air added just the right excitement. I got this shot from my seat, it looks as though everyone else was enjoying it as well.
While traveling in the Amazon we stopped at a center that was a haven for hummingbirds. It was a rainy misty day and it was difficult to get a good picture, but  I managed a few.

Grocery shopping is very different here in Eastern Ecuador.
We visited a native family. Yes, we actually had to walk across this swinging bridge in order to get to her house. They live off the land growing their own vegetables and raising their own beef and poultry. The house had a plain wood plank floor and wood frame, but it was clean and very well maintained.

Through an interpreter we learned about her life including the joys and some of the hardships.  Her smile was genuine and it was clear she did not want to change a thing.
We stopped at a local restaurant noted for fish on the way back, so I indulged in my favorite: whole fish in garlic sauce. Fabulous!

This is an ant.  But not any ordinary ant.  This one has been known to attach humans by crawling in any cavity they can ( nose, ear etc) and then eating the skin or membrane from the inside out. They kill mammals this way.  I was pretty anxious to keep movin' on!
The beetles here in the Amazon grow pretty big!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Quito, Ecuador -- The Upper Amazon

The thing about creating a bucket list, even if it isn't committed to writing, is that it always gnaws at you. So much so, that eventually you have to act on it. And so, I finally got myself to Ecuador. Okay, that really isn't right. Because it isn't Ecuador that I always dreamed of going to. It was actually the Galapagos Islands, which are owned by Ecuador. Parts of the Upper Amazon are also owned by Ecuador. So the next few posts will expound on what I saw while I visited this unbelievably beautiful place.
There were several days spent in the capital city of Quito, which is at an elevation of 8,500 feet. Some folks had real difficulties functioning at this level. I was one of them, but slowly one discovers how to manage.  Go slow, take time to breathe and use as many Coco candies as needed to feel better. The first real adventure was into the upper reaches of the Amazon. We travelled by bus to a river town. We then boarded a motorized canoe, with a canopy (thankfully since it did rain) and cruised down the river to Yarinda Lodge, our hotel for the next several days. I took the rainbow at the start of our river trip as a good omen. We arrived at the lodge just as night was falling.

One of our first stops in Quito was a display of nuts, seeds, bark, tinctures and various other items used in treating human ailments. None of the items displayed looked familiar to me. Though it was all very enticing.

The medicine man who operated the stand was obviously well respected in the community and he could offer items to treat whatever ails you. He didn't even seem to have to discuss your problem, he could sense what you needed and was ready with a remedy.
In another section of Quito, I visited the General Administration Building and they had their guards, in a fashion similar to the British Beefeaters, they did not speak nor smile. Very serious business.
Quito is not immune to poverty and the fellow below was obviously blind but played the accordian very well. He was grateful for whatever gratuities the passersby would donate.
This is our dining hall at the Yarinda Lodge.  It had a water-tight thatched roof and no walls, to allow for catching whatever breeze happened by.
The cabins were cozy with two beds and a private bathroom.  The windows were screened and the beds had mosquito netting...thouhg I am not sure we needed it. The electricity was off from 10PM to 6AM...but any sane person was asleep by then anyway, so who cares?
Teaching at the local indigenous school
After working with the students at the local school, we visited a local family where we helped prepare lunch. They demonstrated the cooking process -- how to open the banana leaf, take the fish, slice here, slice there, rub salt, wrap i the leaf and tie with strips of the leaf to secure the package, then on to the grill. Pretty easy.

Then they wanted a volunteer for the next step. So I stepped up and all I had to do was open the package. But what is it?  Well, what do you think it is?
I got the feeling that I should be very gentle with whatever it was and so took a knife to open  the threads...
Oh Lordy, I can't believe I am doing this!
It was those palm grubs.  The very ones that you may have seen on the Survivor type shows, where people dig these out of the bark and eat them...just like that.  Ug. I'm done!
So the resident lady demonstrated how to kill the grub by squishing the head and then threading it on to a skewer and placing it on the grill for not very long. Some folks call this jungle bacon.  I don't!
Here's my lunch...half a fish, I got the head and a couple of plantain slices. It was actually pretty good.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Finally...Atlas Safe Room

I can, with confidence, say that I am no longer intimidated by tornadoes.  The one that came through central Arkansas a couple of weeks ago scared the begeebses out of me. I went looking for a solution.I discovered Atlas Safe Rooms from of all places, Joplin, Missouri. The room exceed federal standards for surviving an EF5 tornado and if everything collapses around you, it is possible to remove a wall or ceiling so you can get out of the safe room and not be held captive because of debris on the unit.  That was all I needed to see.
Sign me up!
They came at 9:00AM as promised and were done with the installation by 10:AM as promised. I needed to do my meals on wheels run that day, so the schedule was a little tight, but everything went along swimmingly.  See how easy they make it look!

They were installing two units on Friday, mine is the small lump closest to the truck.

 I really got the feeling that installing the unit was the best thing I could do to "Protect my World".

 In moments they had a couple of the wall units up and bolted together. It was easy to  see that they had done this many times before.
 The door...that baby weighs 500 lbs, and all three guys were necessary to get it off the truck and into the garage for installation.

This is Dave. He is the man to drill the pilot holes for bolting the unit through the cement floor of the garage. He made it look easy! He was also hamming it up a little for me too!
This is the bolt that they use. once the hole is drilled the bolt is hammered in and then the drill bit turns the bolt and the flange that he is holding forces the end up and outward so it grabs the insides of the hole and exerts force along the sides so it cannot budge.  I thought it was pretty cool.
So, okay, even though I have this room, I am not so anxious to actually experience a tornado.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Another Beautiful Day on the Buffalo River

It was a case of "strike while the iron is hot" but in this instance the water was high and the threat of rain low with temps in the mid 70's...last one in is a rotten egg!

Any day on a river is great, but a day on the Buffalo is really special. See below
 Wipe that smile off your face and paddle woman!
 Smooth sailin' ahead, for a little while anyway...
totin' the kayak to the put in point
 Two old foggies paddling the river
 wildflowers in the forest, finally!
 and some more
 and waterfalls
Some people just refuse to paddle under general principals!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tucson, Arizona -- and other interesting things

A friend I met during a Road Scholar trip several years ago told me about this RV resort in Tucson and it sounded so interesting that I had to go and spend a little time there to see if I might not actually go there for a month or more during the cold winter months. This years visit was what I call an exploratory adventure. 
The Voyager RV Resort is rated number one by at least one rating agency and it does indeed seem to be a very well run establishment. It is made up of Permanent mobile homes and casitas; these are smaller mobile homes - one bedroom, bath and kitchen/living room with a pull in carport and a covered patio where one can sit and watch the world go by. The rest of the place is  open area for those land yachts to pull in and spend weeks or months on a pad and when the weather or the mood strikes, off they go to other adventures.
In addition to the living facilities the resort offers a multitude of activities to busy oneself during the day and evening. There is an onsite restaurant and bar --with lots of meet and greet activities and football parties. Then for the physically active there is pickleball, tennis, swimming aerobics, fitness room lots of varying exercise classes. Lots of folks ride bikes here, but if you are in to that, you have to bring your own. Other activities are crafts galore, including jewelry and silversmithing, woodworking, ceramics, several discussion groups, card and domino events and pool shooting for those interested. 
It all sounded great, but since I was staying only a week I found that it was hard to enjoy the activities since most were offered on a 4 or 6 week continuing series basis. Hardly worthwhile for a person staying only one week. So, while there was a lot to be enjoyed, I somehow didn't get the full benefit of it. I did spend the week enjoying all the sites that Tucson and the surrounding area had to offer and so you will be hearing no complaints from me. My little casita was very comfortable and private and allowed me to prepare most of the meals easily in the fully furnished kitchen.

I enjoyed a visit to the Colossal Cave which is  just east of Tucson and the tour was very informative. It is one of the few caves that has a constant temperature of 70 degrees -- I found that to be unusual, since all the other ones I have visited are usually somewhere around 40 or so.

The Sonora Desert Museum is a must see stop in Tucson, if you see nothing else. It is a walkable loop botanical garden - zoo and at each turn you see something else that is just amazing. There were animals which included fox, coyote, javalina, a variety of snakes, 2 separate bird aviaries and lots of cacti. They offered tours and videos as well so one could easily spend an entire day there, but I had other ideas. I timed my visit in mid morning so that I could escape and enjoy lunch at what may be the best Mexican restaurant in Tucson. 

On my other days of exploring I went to Sabino Canyon for a tour and hiking. It was one of the highlights of trip and I also spent an afternoon hiking with friends in the Sagauro National Park West on a five mile loop trail, which was also very nice, but it seemed longer and there were moments that we all thought somewhere along the way we must have made a wrong turn and were assuredly lost. But, in fact, we were always on the trail and really appreciated finding the end. While I saw a lot while I was there, I left quite a few things for perhaps another trip --the Pima air museum, Tombstone and several other interesting places.

Here are the photos
The best Mexican Restaurant that I found while in Tucson was Cafe Poca Cosa located at 110mEast Pennington Street, Tucson, Az. i actually went there three times. The first to discover
 Here I learned that each day the menu is created not once but twice. Generally 2 or 3 chicken dishes 2 beef dishes one fish and one vegetarian. Then you may notice that the bottom of the menu has a selection that is larger that the rest. This allows you to sample three of the chefs choice on one dish. I opted for the chefs choice twice out of my three visits and each meal was superb. The food was so good that I had to stop between bites and just savor the wonderful flavors.
On my first choice I got a cod fish sample in a robust clear sauce, a shredded beef dish and the vegetarian selection of the day. They were all fabulous -- oh you also get a great salsa and chips beans that alone would make a great meal, rice and tortillas. The beer was extra. Ha!
 On my third and last visit, I stopped for lunch on the Saturday before my early morning flight out the next day. I had just finished a week of volunteering at the Bird Sanctuary near Benson and was ready for some really good food. Charlie was my waiter and the first thing he said was "how are you doing today?" me. "well, not so good my phone has no cell service. I showed it to him and he insisted that I use his phone to call ATT to fix whatever the problem was. It required me to go out of the restaurant so I could hear the technician. Well, five minutes later I was all connected and happy as a clam. That is why he is standing there telling me about the menu with his Iphone in his hand. I was really happy to have my phone back in working order. It was a really good thing too, because, little did I know at the time that when I finished my meal I would find my rental car had a flat tire and I would REALLY need a phone.
Alls well that ends well. The flat was fixed in less than an hour and I went back to my hotel one happy camper!