Monday, December 31, 2007

Year in Review...Part Thee and a third

The Year 2007.
Year in review...another installment.
Well, let's see we've covered up to June.
In July there was some major celebrite (notice: blogger doesn't do accente gue) in the Rochester area. On July 4th acclaimed race horse Funny Cide took Finger Lakes Race Track by storm.

And yes, you guessed it...the horse lover in me just could not resist. Actually, I've always wanted to see a triple crown race...and seeing a triple crown contender run against horses here in my hometown is as close as I've come so far. Seriously, do you know how much tickets to the Derby cost? This baby. Anyway, at seven years of age this guy with the comical name was considered a senior citizen. The picture to the right is not great...but was taken literally balancing on tippy toe over the crowds around the paddock area. I swear he winked at me. I'm kidding folks...I'm kidding.
Anyway.... Before they called 'riders up' I went to a tent where the owners of Funny Cide were signing autographs for the public. Funny was quite busy and stamping hoofprints would have spoiled his pre-race concentration of course. These gentlemen were some of the most charming and gracious people I've ever had the pleasure to stand in line to meet. Spending most of my summers in Henderson Harbor, it was a delight to meet the hometown heroes; the pride of nearby Sackets Harbor. Yes, these blue collar boys took on the blue bloods and won. A bargain colt became the sensation to win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness in 2002...just missing the Triple Crown ringer at Belmont. While in line I ran into a former student of mine. With camera in hand my mother snapped a photo for the two of us. Oh, yeah and the race? Funny won. Yep. The old timer proved he had one more win left in him. I will not include any video since I don't have any and basically I was screaming so loud I nearly blew my Mom's eardrums out. What a good sport she was. Shortly after his win at the Wadsworth Memorial...Funny Cide was retired. We saw his last career win...and it happened here.

Later on in July...I left the country...yeah...yeah...I got the heck out of Dodge. Just kidding it was just a three week green card. Here's how that all went down.

When I made it through cancer the second time around I knew I would have to make some big leaps to get me revved up to truly live again. It's hard to feel like you're living when you're trying to just live period.

I guess I could have done something less cliche (no accente gue again) but I believe in know...fate, the universe speaking to you. Does the universe speak to you...if you believe in it, yes it speaks.
After the New Year I got a letter in the mail inviting me to a reunion of the study abroad program I participated in back in college. Hello...Universe calling...At the time I opened the letter I was still a zombie and not capable of even thinking about travels or see ahead to the healthy future. I was in remission but far from recovered from what it took to put me there. Quietly I folded the letter, tucked it away and sighed. ...Leah..come you read? Yet things got better and several weeks later, feeling a little more like myself I wondered...what if? It didn't take much to realize this was something I needed to do.
Beat cancer. Will travel. Problem Numero Solution: use my savings...worry about rainy days later. Something was calling me back to Oxford and to see all the places I've always dreamt about beyond England. Europe.. this had not even been in the travel plan. With a mission I visited the travel agent, had a plan and hurriedly scrawled a letter to my cousins in Yorkshire. I'm coming to see you, I wrote.

Though I really envisioned this trip as a solo venture part of the way through my planning my friend Megan asked if she could go along. Thinking about it a little more, I realized it might be fun to have her along for part of it. Yet the rest of the trip I needed to do on my own. She joined me for 2 weeks while we toured European cities on a whirlwind bus tour with Contiki. I highly recommend this company if you want to travel abroad with people in the 20-30s demographic. The best part besides seeing all these places was truly in the people we shared it with on our bus. I met some of the coolest people from Australia, South Africa, Brazil, New Zealand and Canada...oh and America represented too.

Together we saw Paris, London, Amsterdam, the Rhine Valley and Munich, Innsbruck Austria, Venice and Lucerne Switzerland. In addition Megan and I also saw Brussels ourselves where we met up with a friend of my friend's friend named Julie. She showed us Brussels in a way we might never have seen it if going it as just your ordinary map toting tourists. Thank you Julie for your kindness to a friend of a friend of a friend. By the way, the book she is holding is a thick Bible style menu of the 2,000 available beer offerings at a hole-in-the wall pub in Bruxelles (let's be authentic here). I am one quarter Flemish afterall.
The remaining week I stayed...and just as I had orginally planned I hoofed it by myself in London and in the rest of England. I joined the Bonaventure crew at Oxford. The reunion wasn't as well attended as I had anticipated, but it was so good to be back at Somerville and see all the wonderful old haunts of my time in Oxford. Minus the maximum study power hours and pub crawls it was just like old times. After it was was time to head North for my cousins'. It was a good break from touristy fare. In Yorkshire, I had a chance to rest and I focused on catching up with them. Please see the video to really experience a spot of tea with this charming couple.

As you can see...Jack and Audrey are the two sweetest cousins, not to mention excellent hosts. I ate like a queen after many forrays on food and scarfed up take away on buses and trains. She even made lemon curd, muffins, cookies or biscuits. One night they treated me to Fish N' Chips in town. Though they are both in their 80s now, in their younger days they travelled to countries and places all over the world, including many visits to the U.S., which is how I became acquainted with them as a child. I used to hear about their adventures to far off places. I likened it then to the way Gobo from Fraggle Rock would get postcards from his Uncle, Travelling Matt. They call their desire to travel "itchy feet" and so too have I inherited this trait...perhaps not by nature...but more recently by nurture.

This adventure made me excited about life again...because life in and out of sterile hospital floors and infusion units had really thrown me into a funk. Travel seemed to be metaphorically related to the whole idea of overcoming cancer. Without really knowing if things would work out I felt I could roll with whatever came my way. Yet travel was a good escape from the practical and mundane bits of life. After years of hospitals and holding back on dreams this was my Everest, if you will. It was something that seemed impossible in the throws of all that life had thrown my way. I saw many things I had always dreamed about but just as important I revisited the place where I was happiest in a time when I was most at peace.When I was a junior in college...that summer in England was magical. Bryan Adams sang about the iconic summer of '69...mine was thirty years after that one. I wanted to believe that that summer of '99 could be back in my heart again. It was a dream I sometimes wondered if I would ever live to see. I even hope the chance to go back will come again... but if it doesn't I will always be grateful that I took it while it was here. You see, when you live knowing unequivocally that tomorrow is not assured... you have to pretend that today is all you have. I just hope there are many more tomorrows... And lots more adventure in the future.
I may or may not have a final end of the year post but in any case I want to wish you all a very happy New Year. May 2008 bring all of you the best that is in store!
Cue the hopeful Auld Lang Syne soundmix.

Love Always, Leah

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Wow...ten years

Blast from the Past... Circa 1997.
I just got a new all in one printer with scanner. So I thought I would share a picture from ten years ago. Me, on the left. Mar Mar on the right. Time flies. :) Ten years

Leah's Year in Review Part Deux I promised to finish my year '07 recap. I hope this will suffice seeing as how I didn't send out the obligatory Christmas cards this year or the slightly cheesy "newsletter"...
Have you ever read one of those? I mean they are usually the braggy type that say 'Johnny is receiving all A's in school and Martha just got the Statford account so we decided to buy a Hummer.'
So to spare you all I'll just include the more neurotic features of my slightly offbeat life in 07.

Yes, in '07 it was cool to take snappys in Circuit City parking lots

Last time we left off our hero was telling tales of the sublime, the riduculous and the mildly amusing adventures of whimsy. Some redneck novelty shopping, canine birthdays and a cautionary tale of the modeling world...Little did she know more hilarity lay in store.

In early May my travelling was ruled by hunger. This time I am not kidding.
Okay, so with my last post the Kentucky Fried Chicken thing was a stretch, but I really planned this trip around food. Luckily I have cool friends that accept my rather impulsive travel suggestions.

The conversation went something like this.

Leah: Let's go somewhere...

Carol: Okay where?

Leah: I don't know...somewhere in tolerable driving distance

Carol: Okay where?

Leah: How about a state I haven't been to...
Carol: Hmmm...

Leah: What about Vermont? I haven't been there.

Carol: Vermont has Ben and Jerrys.

Leah: Okay...sold...I'm calling triple A. Woohoo!!!

Carol and I had ourselves quite a time on our road trip. I resisted the urge to make her do Chinese fire drills. I tried not to count pi-diddles or pidaddles. However when I tried to engage her in the fifth round of "One hundred bottles of beer on the wall" (the song, not the practice) I was quite unexpectedly pushed out of the vehicle. Don't get me wrong she couldn't have picked a more beautiful piece of scenery in the Northeastern United States to dump the chump in.The picture shown above depicts me trying to wave down a passing motorist. Okay, I'm just kiddiing around. This did not happen. But I had you going there. Seriously, did any of you know that there is a ferry across from that takes you from New York across Lake Champlain to Vermont! Who knew! This was exciting. A ferry. You know how people from Rochester love their ferrys. Ha ha!

Those of you who don't get this joke...well you're not from Rochester so you just better skip ahead. Anyway in the accompanying picture the finger to your left is pointing at New York, the other to Vermont. I figured this would be a helpful visual since you might have never been on a ferry. And again I like my ferrys and I like them fast and furious. I guess I have visions of grandeur when it comes to ferrys. I kept asking where the casino and the wet bar was but the guy in the yellow Gordons fisherman get-up kept looking at me like I had saurkraut growing out of my ears. If Carol really was the type of friend to kick me out of said mode of transport this would have been a very tricky pickle...I didn't bring my life vest. Thankfully all kidding aside, we had a good ol' time on the ferry....and soon enough we were in Vermont!
Let's just put this Vermont...we ate a lot. Yummy! Vermont is a good state for eating. Cheese, ice cream and maple syrup in 20 different varieties. Oh my! The Ben and Jerry's factory tour is a must! By the way they aren't stingy with the sample at the end either.

In June I was a bridesmaid. Alright, alright. I know the old addage. Always a bridesmaid... well.. Shut your yap! Anyway I was a bridesmaid in my friends wedding. A good time was had by all. Well, except for one thing. It was the tradition that every single lady out there dreads. Ladies you know...even if your've been there. "ALL THE SINGLE LADIES OUT ON THE FLOOR." Okay,this is a tradition steeped in good intentions. Some DJs have good natured fun with this. If done tactfully and with good taste it can be a relatively painless experience. However, I think this DJ had been setting sail with Captain Morgan in a broom closet on his breaks. I mean he seemed to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder. These are the times that try womens souls... when single ladies are like deers in the headlights. It went something like this. Hey girls? Hey...hey...what no dates? How old are you? This is where I should have whipped out some kind of tazer or grabbed the air horn I just happen to tote around and scream..."Alright Marlboro man step off before I do my violent version of the electric slide right into your table of expensive equiptment!" Not wanting to make a scene...I relented and joined my friends in accepting the abuse.

Paging Carrie Bradshaw. Your help is needed in the single lady department. Eh...what Carrie's not real? Shoot. I guess we're on our own ladies. Hang tight. Rock on.
So there you have it Part Deux...Wait is there more? You betcha...we've still got one more installment of 2007 the graphic blog-el. If your not too busy polishing the champagne glasses, testing out the nosiemakers or doing whatever it is that gets you through the New Years build-up stop in and read...
...Or I'll just see ya next year.

Friday, December 28, 2007

2007 a review PART ONE

Around this time of year every media outlet seems to crank out a "year in review" show or publication. It's the thing to do, don't ya know.

In 2007 many events were going on in the world; everybody attempts to do them justice.
Of course there was the usual global political unrest, economic disarray and well things were generally unpleasant...if you were tuned into the evening news. However, I am not here to give you all that. So, it is with little fanfare and much latent ambition that I bring you ....
Leah's Year in Review...This is 2007 from my vantage point.
In January I ventured to Baltimore Maryland. Here in one blindingly colorful image is proof that I was kidnapped by two secret agents disguised as children. I later found out that they were covert operatives for the Ray Ban company-

apparently the shade manufacturer now conducts its advertising campaigns with guerilla tactics. The photo op below was achieved by filling me with about 38 ounces of gummy bears, rapping me like a mummy and tickling me within inches of my life.
Because of my saccharine induced state I signed the contract releasing the image and smiled deliriously for the photo. Soon after the RayBan company scrapped this original slightly off-kilter campaign idea. As I understand it, the public didn't connect with the "I wear my shades indoors for nap time" gimmick. Obscure stardom safely avoided. Alas, although my aspirations of ambush celebrity were abandoned I learned from this experience. I will now be wary of kids bearing sugary treats and a promise of a game of Chutes and Ladders.

Okay, the truth. These are my two little cousins. They were just being silly and entertaining their recovering buddy. I finished treatment the month before. The visit was my first outing out of state visit since chemo. I cherish nap time far more then they do. Thanks to AirTran for transportation, making this trip the way...why no more honey roasteds. Is everyone allergic to peanuts these days?

In 2oo7 there were two monumental birthdays of a chocolate variety.
The Hershey company celebrated 100 magical years of delighting chocoholics like myself. But the chocolatey birthday that drew my true attention was that of a four-footed sock eating, underwear shredding, butter licking, couch stealing, counter mounting whirlwind of best dog friend, Lucy.

In February Miss Lucy turned one year old.
The occasion was celebrated by a slice of birthday cake lightly garnished with crumbled milkbone. To be truthful the photograph below was the quieter second celebration which Lucy found quite a disappointment after her blow out party at obedience class. I am not kidding this dawg knows how to party. Things managed to stay under control despite some momentary growling, yipping and whining as Happy Birthday was sung by all in attendance. This was followed by lapping and frantic licking of the Frosty Paws that were passed out.

Heh...heh...Although I was turned down from modeling for fashion magazines at every turn in 2006... Hmmm...something about having no hair, being scarred and having the bloated chemo moon face...2007 proved to be my year. Gilda's Surviving In Style Fashion Show.
In March I strutted my stuff on the catwalk... Yeah, on the catwalk...the catwalk yeah!
It's hard to feel pretty when you've just gone through the ringer but somehow the team of make-up artists, stylists and volunteers managed to boost my confidence. And some friends and family joined the audience and managed to hoot, holler and cheer me on.
Oops,I forgot to do my hip pop thing Lisa.Oh well, there's always next year. My only complaint...the model's food was by far lighter than the banquet I hear the guests dined on.
Come on people, I'm no model. I like to eat!

Speaking of hunger... In April, I was hungry for a little KFC... so I drove out to Kentucky. Well that's only partially correct. My dad and I took our long delayed Bluegrass road trip. Highlights included a tour of Churchill Downs, a campus tour of Union College (which my dad had not set foot on since graduating 38 years prior). We did lots of sightseeing along the way and took in many roadside attractions. We also made stops in Tennesse and West Virginia. The BlueRidge Mountains and the Great Smokies are beautiful in spring time. The picture to the right is my Dad fossil hunting in one of the many beautiful rushing streams in Smoky Mountain National Park. I highly recommend a visit. However, while visiting Bean Station Tennessee I would recommend caution. Stopping for souvenirs is not always encouraged. If you are lucky enough to find a place along the way it might be a study in backcountry oddity rather than a chance to pick up a cherished gift. Just outside Bean Station was a cozy little local place that seemed inviting enough with its rather dilapidated parking lot. Above the store was a sign touting its glorious offerings which read "FIREWORKS, BAIT AND GIFTS". Now I don't know about you but anytime I have the opportunity to buy my decorative explosives, worms and treasured momentos and postcards all in one convenient place...I just can't resist. Despite my Dad's momentary misgivings we pulled in.

We were "sort of" greeted, well barely acknowledged is more accurate, by the four men sitting in fold out lawn chairs near the cash register. As I trolled through the displays I found many things that sparked my interest including a reindeer toilet caddy, a beer cozy with interesting explatives and some rather obscene license plate and mud flap accessories. Although their best seller in the store did catch my eye ...a brightly colored and boldy lettered shirt that said Hi Y'all on the front and Bye Y'all on the back. One size fits all. It was mighty enticing..but I I opted to buy a postcard instead, just to be 'friendly like'. The man who leisurely approached the counter to cash me out was wearing a breathe right nose strip. Mind you this was 2 o'clock in the afternoon...I must have roused him from his afternoon snooze. Roadside kitsch aside I think I learned a lesson from this...never look for quality momentos in any store that combines fishing and Fourth of July must-haves. Oh well.

Tune in for the next installment of 2007 Year in find out what happened in May, June and July and maybe event August of '07...hey, it's winter I don't ski, therefore I write.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The sum of all parts- new fun for scans

Can you believe it? It's been 3 months and I hardly even knew it...CT scan time is here again.
Christmas only comes but once a year but CT scans... they are four times the fun.
I have recently become tuned in to some changes afoot related to scans and how health insurance industry providers handle them.
Basically insurers are now requiring prior approval before scheduling necessary CT scans or MRIs.
Being the novice that I am in all these quite complicated logistics, I found myself remiss in taking note. Truthfully, I didn't exaclty know how these changes would play out. I didn't think about it until Tuesday evening.

Tuesday 5:05 PM

Hello...Leah Shearer?
Yes. That's me.
I am calling to inform you that the scan of your neck has been approved.
Assured and content I hung up.
Wait...oh crap she said neck! Just my neck? I am supposed to get a full body scan!!!!

Ten minutes later...

Hello Miss Shearer?
I'm calling on behalf of &*&% health to notify you of approval for the scan of your thorax.
Wait...someone just called me ten minutes ago.
Oh. yes. this is how we do it now.
Okay, but someone already called me.
Well, what did that someone say what she was approving?
My neck.
Yes...this is how we do it now.

Seven or eight minutes later...

hello Leah?
umm yes (snickering)
Oh...I just called you didn't I?
Yes... (now laughing audibly)
Your pelvis has been approved...(brief pause) I know... this is strange.
So are you going to call me body part by body part?
Pretty much... (now laughing herself)

And so it went... for another 2 calls...just like that. Although my chest came out of order...I think after pelvis...I got the idea. I stopped singing "the thigh bone connected to the hip bone" long enough to let out another hearty chuckle. I began to feel like Napoleon Dynamite. Remember that scene where he's testing the milk for defects?

Neck approved...Yesss! Abdomen....Yesssss! Thorax.....Yessssssssss!

This just really makes me think about how truly inefficient our health care industry is. The time they spent calling me body part by body part could have been put to use some other way, right? Does it seem a little kooky. Even the three separate women that I talked to in 5 string phone blitz agreed with me. Hey, they are just doing their job, taking orders from the Grand Pubbah. Just taking orders from a conglomerate and a larger cog in the wheel of a very messy and complicated system that you and I... and other Americans find ourselves sometimes entangled in. What the hell...what if they miss a body part? Seriously. Paging Michael Moore!!!

I don't pretend to be an expert on these issues in fact I am just your average patient. The only thing I have to look at this issue through is a little bit of common sense.

What is up with my HMO? Gosh...Iditots.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Fabulous and freezing their Jimmy Choos off

Last night at around midnight...or 1 am... under the dim light of a street lamp I contemplated.
I watched gads of young women in their early 20s run around with no coats and skimpy outfits better suited for summer and running across a slippery icy street with 3 inch heels. Mind was 15 degrees Farenheit last night. If you think I say this with a touch of condescension you would be right. I felt like screaming at the top of my lungs
"What are you thinking??"
No coats, no traction and no sense.

I'm beginning to feel sensible and practical in an impractical world. I wore a warm sweater underneath my wool coat, scrarf and mittens. Afterall I am suddenly older and wiser, right? I realize that I can go out and a bout and still have the sense that the big guy gave me to stay warm. Was I ever that callous and unconcerned with regard to my own health and comfort?...No probably not. But the mothering instinct in me is working overtime. I can hear it now, rising up out of my throat as if under the mind control of thousands of matronly shadowy fugures...
Put a coat on, put a hat on...are you wearing that...Do you want to catch your death?

Granted I take most of my fashion lessons from Mr. Rogers. I mean come on, the guy was
working the cardigan before layering was all the rage. And a more appropriate model for sensible shoes could not be found. In fact, sometimes I think Mr. Rogers would be a good model for some of these misguided ladies.
He would probably use a soft and gentle approach:
"Young are special...there is no one else in the world like you.."
"You don't have to be anyone but yourself..."
"When it is cold should always bundle up...protect yourself because you are special."

Yet, I wonder if any of these ladies were watching Mr. Rogers as a kid.
And then I'd have to realize that who I'd really want to finish off this lesson is Captain Kangaroo. He'd know just who to call...Mr. Green Jeans would do his little spin on the catwalk. He'd model his warm, comfy overalls with the stride of a GQ coverboy.
How debonair, how practical, how sensible.

And then Mr. Moose would pelt the ladies with an all out barrage of ping pong balls.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I woke up this morning and I was thirty

I am 30. Yes...this is the first time I write this out.
I am ready to face the 30s. A deep breath as I enter this third decade of my life.
For those of you that missed me in my 2os I thought I'd provide a brief snippet of some of the things that made my 20s memorable.
In my 20s I...

  • graduated college
  • wore a bridesmaid dress...three times
  • had my heart broken too many times
  • have had 17 roommates (if we include college roommates as well)
  • drown my sorrows in about an estimated 500 bowls of ice cream (collectively folks)
  • was issued 2 speeding tickets in the course of one month
  • passed up 3 job opportunities
  • rode through the Lake District on horseback
  • was fired from a waitressing job by certified mail
  • managed to kiss the Blarney Stone, a few strangers and 3 guys with the name Joe
  • saw Sting in concert
  • have initated several dance-offs
  • accidently flashed someone
  • studied in England
  • slept under the stars, under a coffee table and in a 5 star hotel bed
  • had someone fight for my honor
  • had a Mai Tai in Hawaii
  • sailed, raced and crewed J-24s on Lake Ontario
  • climbed a couple mini mountains, parasailed and did more than a few things that scared me
  • was nearly knocked out by an airborne golf ball twice...once as a cart girl and once as a TV intern (don't ask)
  • threw a surprise party
  • was given a surprise party
  • wrote for a national magazine
  • reached the 22 mark of U.S. states I have travelled to
  • had my own radio show
  • worried about receiving an FCC warning memo (please see above)
  • wrote my own column for a year
  • performed on stage with a band
  • rolled down a hill for fun
  • travelled in Europe...twice
  • saw whales breaching in the Pacific
  • got sick on the tea-cups at Disney
  • survived cancer twice

Wow...that was quite a decade. On to the thirties...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Age ain't nothin but a number, right?

I haven't written. I apologize. I have a secret. Okay it's a secret I am putting on a website that conceiveably could be viewed by millions and millions of people. That is- if millions actually read my blog. Secret is out. I'm turning 30. It's kind of like a disease but not...its kind of like eating a dirt sandwich when a mobster with brass knuckles is forcing it down your throat.
A-haw gfawww haw ghhhauuggcccaaa.
That's the sound of me choking down my dirt sandwich. Today is the last day in my twenties.
I do not go gently into this good new decade. I feel like at times I am thinking "rage rage against the fading of the twenties."

My wonderful sister made things much sweeter for me this weekend. She threw me a surprise birthday party. I will share some pictures as soon as I am given them. I did not have my camera with me. Now you know it was a surprise. No camera.

So in the same way I fear this acceptance of it is necessary. I am going to feel good about this I swear. If anything I should be happy to wave goodbye to the last part of my twenties that was particularly traumatic. Yes, yes I recognize the need to embrace this. Yet before I do that I am going to struggle a little under the meaty hand of Tony Soprano.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Young adults have some cawfee tawk

I am looking forward to this Tuesday...I'm getting together with three other strangers for coffee. No, I'm not playing my own version of the dating game with three innocuous bachelors. Although that's a really great idea. Dating is afterall such a pain.

Three fellow local young adult cancer survivors who I have been corresponding with over email will meet me for a little coffee and some long overdue dialogue. Don't get me wrong, I've received lots of support through various organizations. I have met so many awesome survivors here locally and become involved in their causes. Never have I been denied support or been turned away from anything for being too young. But something was missing. I wanted to find people who know what it's like to be young and who don't just reminisce about it. I wanted to find people who know what it's like to be young and deal with cancer.

On a homo sapien cellular level cancer may look the same within our bodies. Yet socially, economically, soci-economically, politically, socio-politically and beyond cancer is a whole different ball game for young adults. The unique effects and corresponding approaches have until recently been overlooked. Thank God that is changing. If I hadn't stumbled across the website, logged into chat room one Monday night and talked to a guy named Matthew Zachary I might have never thought this could be done. The idea that we children of the 80s and 90s can have something that's our own when it comes to cancer was a pioneering idea that I really liked.
If you know of anyone in the Rochester NY area 20-40 and a cancer survivor willing to join our now forming chapter of I2Y email me. But before you do that check out I'm Too Young For This yourself. It 's given me the confidence to do something I feel strongly about...bringing young cancer survivors together. It starts with four people in a coffee shop. To Be Continued...

Fare thee well Halloween

Last night I joined some friends in Brighton for a Halloween party. Granted Halloween was really Wednesday, but being the working folks we are Friday fit the bill. I adopted my twenty five dollar approach to costuming this year. Twenty five dollars is a budget that kind of puts you in that okay I'm not creative enough to use only the contents of my closet category...but hey I'm not going to blow 100 acrorns to buy one of those costume in a bag deals. Nor am I foolhardy enough to rent a costume that was probably inhabited by some sweaty unknown to me person. Hello MRSA?!! It is a consideration these days.

This year I was a butterfly. I apologize in advance for not having a good picture of my costume. My friends promised to share their pics. I mean really, don't you hate to be the one asking "will you take one on mine too?" as some poor stiff snaps the same pose shot after shot on 7 different cameras?
So this one I took of myself after the evening was over. I will admit I am not good at doing these arm over the head shots. Okay, here's your proof. And no, I am not the sleeping butterfly. And yes, this is all you will ever see of my bedroom because 1.) this is not one of those blogs. 2.) it's a mess right now

My costume was not really thoroughly researched. First of all I can't even pinpoint my species, I am either a Monarch or a Viceroy. And something tells me if we were to compare butterfly years* (butterflies only live a few weeks) to human years I'd still be in the larvae stage. Ewww...not so cool a costume.

However there are a few fun advantages to building a costume around a set of $15 butterfly wings.

1.) Add head to toe black and you're good to go

2.) The suitable accessories, long red wig and eyelashes were something a short haired and sparse lashed gal could not resist. Hmm..technically another 15 bucks for accessories

3.)Nothing says spectacle at the gas pump like a red headed cat burglar with colorful, gauzy and definitely not flame retardant wire framed things attached to her back. Hope you had a Happy Halloween.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Approaching foreign territory

Have you ever thought about your approach to something?
Come again?
approach: the Oxford American Dictionary, for instance, defines the word for this context as...
a method of doing or tackling something.

I will say that everyone has a different approach toward life challenges. Take for instance, cancer. Never had I seen this illustrated so well until tonight. I sat watching Crazy Sexy Cancer with some Gilda's Club members. I am the minority, the young adult in this group.

For those of you who don't know Kris Carr's amazing documentary is unmistakably young, fresh and reminiscent of the youthful approach to cancer. She is funny, bold, irreverant and she profiles other young women who are of a like mindset. Sometimes they swear. A few times they say things like @*%* cancer. These women are honest and sometimes they sound more like comediennes in their smackdown of the big C. Hello tumor humor. Kris Carr speaks for young women and young adults in general because she understands a common ethos, part of how many of us who are young deal with cancer.

I realized as I heard a few nervous twitters and a few gasps that some of the women around me were taken aback. Generationally, cancer is different. In the twenty or thirty year age gap between where I sit and where they sit... it's different. This approach, this attitude and this kind of fresh look at cancer seems revolutionary to some of them. I guess I should step back and say hey, wow, you know, it is revolutionary. It's how many young adults face their fight, with fervor and with gusto. Yet it's new and it's groundbreaking- somehow foreign to our parents' generation. They grew up in an age where cancer was taboo, ugly and something to be whispered about. Now suddenly it's not. New pathways. New thinking. New approaches to cancer.

As the movie played on and they watched a little more you could see them warming to it. Those in that room who were conservative or conditioned to be unassuming and polite seemed to be seeing a different light. Before I knew it they were saying "Wow" out loud and in the right places laughing robustly. Were they slowly seeing how this youthful approach was liberating? Did they see it's okay to be a little brazen, a little silly and a little rebellious? Did they see that we don't have to treat cancer with kid gloves...or conservatively or with reservation? Perhaps so...I really believe that Crazy, Sexy, Cancer was saying more to them than they expected. Maybe in some small way they went home a little different.

Young adults are not the minority in other areas of life. The bars, the coffee shops, the corporate world... these places are just teaming with us young adults. But in cancer we are the minority. Overall cancer activities weren't really designed with us in mind. Most of us haven't learned to play kinasta or crochet afghans so we passed over the fliers about some of the social hours, the get-together, the opportunity for cancer bonding. To find our peers we had to deal with our cancer and find our survival companions over the internet.

No question: in this cancer journey we are the minority. Yet, watching Kris Carr last night perhaps these older survivors finally understood. Our voices, our journeys are not to be ignored. We may be the minority but it is the resonant voice of the young adult that is really speaking to everyone: our approaches toward cancer might become theirs as well. It is quite possible that this could happen or maybe already has.

Some day in an infusion room you might see a brave and resilient retiree sporting a shirt that says "Eyebrows are so last year." And she might smile at the young twenty-something nurse whose locks she admires. And they'll both smile because they are both empowered.
Tenderly ironic. Maybe we youngins' have something to teach older cancer survivors afterall.
But they should not forget where they are learning it.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Z is for the Zest for life

This weekend I met someone really amazing. His name is Zachary DeRidder.
Zach competed in several triathalons, 5K Races and rode 100 miles on his bike this summer.
  • Do I find this amazing because these kind of athletic endeavors are uncommon? Yes.
  • Am I slightly in awe of that kind of athletic ambition? That's a given.
But when I tell you that Zach competed in these feats of strength and endurance all while undergoing treatment for cancer, you might sit back in awe yourself.
He is one of only ten people in this country with a rare form of liver cancer called fibro lamellar variant liver cancer.

It's started from a random email from a random stranger who thought Zach would be a good candidate for the chapter of I am trying to get together here in Rochester. I followed it up with an email to Zach, one that was never returned. Something in my gut told me there was something besides ordinary procrastination that led to my unanswered email. So I casually followed it up with an email to his friend, Michael.

Apparently Zach had other things to attend the fight of his life. I would have expected no more than a vague summary when I got an email back from Michael. Strangers don't really need to know the whole story, right? Certainly, I never expected Michael to invite me to go to the hospital to meet Zach. So that's just what I did.

Zach, his friend Michael and I chatted from chairs in the lobby of his hopsital floor. Through pain he's still smiling and he still has hope that he will be back on his bike.
He has called this floor home for more than a month. I watched him waved down a passing doctor and openly chat with her about the next steps in his treatment. He joked and pointed longingly at the candy bars in the vending machine. He's fighting with everything he has...and hasn't forgotten his passion or what he sees for himself beyond the walls of the hospital. His dreams are just beginning to take shape and ZHope, or, the foundation that his friends set up to honor him is just getting off the ground.

Talking to Zach, you get the idea that he sees this cancer as just a road block. With an attitude and a vision like his you'd never think he was facing incredible odds just in his own survival.
While talking to him about I2Y he got an incredible light in his eyes. He started talking about activities we should do in our chapter of I2Y when he is well.
Could we go camping as a know stuff like that? he asked.
He seemed amazed that other young adult cancer survivors were uniting in such a way. You see Zach hasn't had access to a computer for a while and hadn't heard there was an organization like this. As a matter of fact, months ago while he could have searched the internet for support for young adults with cancer, he was way too like a machine. He was too busy defying the odds. He still is. Tomorrow's plans are still there.

If you read this with purpose or intent... or even if you happened upon this by accident, pray for Zach and keep him in your thoughts. He is hoping to receive a liver's his shot at beating cancer.
Visit ZHope and learn about Zach.
Visit I2Y and learn why we are too young for this.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Big Brother or Big Boy--servin up the fun

Those Dutch people. They sure know how to do it.
If you are student at the University of Wageningen you know what I am talking about.

Apparently the innovative minds at UoW decided the TGIFridays down the road just wasn't cuttin' it and created their own restaurant that bears the faint scent of Big Brother.
NOTE: Sarcasm. I have no idea if the Netherlands has a TGIFridays chain.

Imagine dining at a table where cameras are trained on your plate of linguine. From within the walls of a hidden control room guys in white lab coats with clipboards are watching your every move, your every bite. It seems this campus restaurant is more along the lines of a research facility. It's a little creepy. Sure, they operate this eatery under the guise of observing dining behavior, consumer tastes and predictable patterns. And yes, thankfully the whole thing is not done surreptitiously. Before sloshing down that soft drink and salty appetizer you must first sign a release form, consenting to be watched and observed. Takers? Anyone?

This whole story just led me to a lot of procrastinating...errr... I mean thinking. Overall, this makes me a little queasy. It's how I feel about that overzealous videographer at a wedding who asks you to say a few words about the happy couple just after you crammed a shovel full of frosting smeared cake in your mouth. Eating and videography should not be combined. Crunching, munching and slurping noises should not be captured with a boom mic.

Maybe it's because I abhor most reality t.v., maybe because the Dutch kind of perplex me. Besides tulips, wooden shoes, windmills and legalized prostitution in Amsterdam...they really haven't made a name for themselves yet. Now in the future we might be able to thank the Dutch for an improved dining experience...only after hours of videotape prove that:

  • Yes, some of us do talk with our mouths open

  • We did take back that extra dollar bill from the tip

  • Patrons are indeed responsible for trick salt shakers

If this important research helps you help others help us to a better overall experience eating out in the future...I guess so be it. Consider this though; beware on a whole other level of the friend who during a meal asks you to "go Dutch".

If all else fails talk about the weather

I am careful not to place too much reliance on weather trends lately. Rochester weather in general has a tendency to disappoint anyway. But if it gets to late November or December and I spot someone wearing Bermuda shorts and Birkenstocks (no socks, a.ka. "summer" Birks) and the patio tables are still lining the Park Ave restaurant...I guess I'll start to wonder what doom the impending winter will hold.

Predictability is a key feature of the seasons. I should expect that in October I have to start pulling out those cableknits and turning the dusty knob of my thermostat. Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining at all. I like the fact that I can enjoy sunshine, blue skies and a string of 80 degree days. But it spoils you. For example, the forecast for this week calls for upper 60 degree - 70 degree weather. Not bad, right? Well recently I heard a friend grumbling that it was going to be "too cold to lay out." No joke. Unless I read my map and my state tax refund wrong...we do not live in Florida. Yes, Rochester NY. Land of opportunity. Oppurtunity for blizzards.

In September I was on top of things. Or so I thought. I stashed my summer outfits in rubbermaid containers up in the attic...exchanging them for a bevvy of sweaters. I soon learned my lesson...hasty wardrobe overhalls are particularly dangerous. Want to beckon weather change? Change the contents of your closet. I subsequently, trudged back up to the attic, retrieved a few relevant summer-like pieces and tried to make do with the slightly puzzling temperatures. I even left my air conditioner in the bedroom window. As irony would have it, that week the weather dropped to the 40s. The chill finally set in. My local meterologist is beginning to aggravate me...nothing against him.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

So I hear, there are a few approaches to life. There are also more than a few theories about the "best way" to approach life...and which approach is best.

Appoach #1

"I want to live on an island of mango trees and happy little creatures. I do not see a reason to worry or fret about anything. I want to feel the sunshine on my face (never worrying about the ever present threat of global warming)"

This would be classified under the heading "state of denial". Some would call this approach overly idealistic.

Okay let's say the world was this way....happy mango trees, creatures and sun..
Would there still be reason for conflict?
Uh yeah... You on...

Approach #2

"Gosh, no one has it as bad as me. I hate this island. What the hell do I want with mangos- hell, I'm allergic...and I'm getting a really bad burn from that damn yellow ball in the sky."

This would be classified under the heading of "pessimist with a penchant for passing it on"
Please SEE--- Debby Downer.

Approach #3

"I think this island has its good points. Many thousands, millions of years ago I believe it may have been an isthmus...perhaps, and therefore time has caused its change. It's quite amazing really. I'm sure that long ago there was a land bridge allowing these animals, marvelous specimens, to roam the island. And these wonderfully vitamin rich fruits....those mangos, well they must have been brought in by seeds caught in the matted fur of the primitive animals that came here. And oh, look at that sun. Do you think this magnificent star of the solar system realizes what life it gives this little microcosm?"

This would be classified under "obnoxiously intellectual". Life philosopher who theorizes and pontificates, but holds others back from just taking in an experience for what it is.

Approach #4

" I got to just get over this... so my island is flooded. So the mangos are all rotted. I should just get off my duff and just start doin' somethin'. Maybe I'll cut this useless mango tree down and build a boat...and get out of here."

This would be classified under "realist with a plan". This approach might be seen as the ideal, that person who sees what needs to be done, doesn't waste time and just gets down to it.

Now your question might be where do I see myself in the grand scheme of this brief run-down? I guess the answer is all of them. To be honest with myself and my experience, I've seen myself using all of these approaches at least for small amounts of time. Situations arise sometimes that bring out the best and the worst in all of us. To truly be honest with ourselves we must admit that moods as well as circumstances sometimes influence our unique approaches to life. Can we say we are entirely an optimist? Entirely a pessimist? Or are we a combination of both?

Three years of almost constant medical upheaval (many more if you count B.C. Before Cancer)
can really lead you on a roller coaster. I guess what I'm really trying to say is that just like anyone I have good days and I have bad days. Glass half-full or empty? Do I sit on the bleachers or make waves in the pool?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

I woke up this morning and forgot what day it was. Yes, I knew it was Sunday but until my computer loaded up and the date *September 30* popped up on the screen I had forgotten. Three years ago today at a little after 4 pm my world changed forever.

My diagnosis of cancer, now referred to as my first diagnosis of cancer was branded into my memory forever. The date itself has been a looming specter creeping onto my calender marking that one more year has passed since what I knew as normal disappeared. But as I opened my eyes and turned over in bed this morning I didn't know it was that day, nor had I gone to bed 8 hrs previous dreading it.
Could this be the best sign- that life is starting to normalize. The day is still one I will remember for the rest of my life but it does not define or interpret the meaning of my life. Explain this fact to someone who has not been a survivor of any serious chronic never leaves your lifestyle, yet it never diminishes your capacity to feel joy. It does not have to be the forefront of your thoughts but the impression it leaves on you is lasting. And it is a gift.

This Friday's Light the Night for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society was great!
My team, Leah's Line-Up raised more than $2,000 for blood cancer patients. My special un-credited caregiver, Lucy, the chocloate lab joined us for the walk.

For those of you who know Lucy the pup came into my family's life as a direct result of my diagnosis with Hodgkins Lymphoma April 2006. I call her my "magic medicine", the "anti-chemo" and I credit her with saving my spirit. It was wonderful to find out she could join my band of supporters, providing she was leashed.
She's no longer a pup...and I'm no longer hairless, frail and being riddled with caustic drugs. Life has gone on. Poor dog...with all those people there she didn't get enough special TLC from her Leah. Awww, so today I will take Lucy to Dog Shangri-La at Ellison Park. Not a bad way to spend a day, eh?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Nostalgia is just a way of compensating for really crappy pop-culture

In the 1980s I was livin the high life.
I loved to chew Hubba Bubba Pink Lemonade bubble gum while riding my Pink Huffy Sweet Thunder bicycle (with the ultra cool extra cushiony luxury seat) up and down the driveway.
Back then things were really cookin'. I was sportin an ultra cool girl mullet. I wore a telephone cord belt and I had one of those three tiered skirts. The Fisher Price radio with attached mic was blasting the Bangles and Genesis and I sang to every song. Thankfully, by the early 90s the mullet was long gone and life went on. But if you ask me any line of Manic Monday I can still recite it. Impressive huh, I was eight years old when that song came out?

I missed the whole 80s coming of age thing, the teen scene. I was too busy throwing Barbie pool parties during the better part of the 80s. At least the movies showed me I was missing out on some real good times. Wax on Wax off... Who didn't envy Elizabeth Shue rollerskating around with Ralph Maccio (Daniel Son) in the Karate Kid, ya know? And Sixteen Candles.... Hello? It doesn't get any better than Jake Ryan!

But anyway, by the time the 90s rolled around...I realized I'd missed the boat. The teenaged guy getting the most attention wore suspenders, red oversized glasses and snorted heartily. His name was Steve Urkel.

Then when Joey Lawrence danced around in a wife beater and a flannel around his waist singing Nothin' My Love Can't Fix for ya was grounds for despair. Triple threat, he was not.

Right then and there the teen idol should have been declared DOA. Granted Urkel later spiffed up and became Stef-fffan but I digress...this was what we had to work with in the early 90s....a whole lotta nothin.

Were there any decent teen idols in the 90s? Am I missing anyone? Please comment if you think I have unfairly assessed the hunk quotient of an entire decade.

Clean scan!

Yes, this is a very good thing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Insomnia's effects on a worried brain

Today is the day I should get my scan results. And yes this post if it registers correctly was made at 3:35 AM.
I am worried. So there. Every now and then a little worry is okay to admit, right?
But I will distract myself with some rambling...the kind of rambling one does to avoid thinking about serious life altering scenarios.

Ponderable Questions
  • Do you think Leona Helmsley's dog has a crystal chandellier in the dog house?
  • How the hell do they attach Britney's hair extensions -wasn't the girl bald just 5 months ago?
  • Do telemarketers accept calls from other telemarketers?
  • Can you get workers comp from a papercut if it becomes infected and disables you?
  • No solicitors. Are girl scouts peddling those cute yummy cookies considered solicitors?
  • There is no i in team...who comes up with this bull?

Just saying...

  • West Nile virus really isn't that exotic if your Egyptian.
  • The pet rock, doggie steps, spray on hair...modern marvels!
  • The inventor of the Flowbee was in cahoots with the developer of the Mullet hairstyle.
  • You're a roadie. The rock life is in your blood. Now...imagine your next assignment is a Hanson show.
  • The running man...ahhhh I miss this dance move.
  • The beret...this could have made a comeback. Great job, Monica Lewinsky!

Alright, now I'm just going to try to get some sleep...I have successfully distracted myself.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I would like to state for the record

Yeah...for the record...

that there are several things that are fear inducing

  • Michael Vick shows up to pet sit.

  • Finding a suspicious warm spot while swimming with friends.

  • Finding out your friend accidently booked a cosmetics party with a registered sex offender...uh oh...

Some things you should least conservatively fear...other things maybe some healthy angst or terror is called for. September is coming and the fear is creeping up again. My 90 day scan will take place in this month as well as the 3 year anniversary of my first cancer diagnosis.

But instead of worrying about things I have no control over I've taken a lesson from Kris Carr. Her documentary film, crazy sexy cancer showed how she used her own diagnosis as a challenge to harness her fear and go forward. Unbelievably inspiring.

Who's afraid of some tests, some anniversary or cancerversary. Big deal. After all, there was a brief period in college where I was fearless. I still am the same girl who stage rushed and grabbed Donny Osmond at the Hill Cummorah paegant.

Donny, if you're reading this...I admit was me... but I was 19 and impressionable and thank you for not having me arrested.

Thank you Kris, for showing me I need to make contact with that gutsy girl inside. She's in there, I just have to keep calling her back every now and then.

Travel down the road and back again

My Golden Girls addiction, that's no secret.

Secretly wouldn't we all like to be happenin' chicks like the Golden Girls in that twilight of life?I found this on the made me laugh so I thought I'd share.

No deep thoughts today...JUST SMILE!

Monday, August 27, 2007

The tribe has spoken- 'survivor'ship isn't about silence

Suddenly it happens to you and immediately they call you a survivor. Even if you've just begun the journey it doesn't seem possible that already they're calling you a survivor. Maybe some people think now I should just put it behind me, shove it under a rug and try not to speak about it again. I've learned something about myself through this...I can't. If putting this behind me means forgetting the whole purpose that inspires me then I won't ever put this completely behind me.

Suddenly I've added a role to my life that is just as important to me as what I do for my paycheck. I am an advocate. Last year it started with a team that my Mom and I formed in one week for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. I'd been involved with the organization and it meant a lot to me, but just then I wasn't sure I felt strong enough to participate. I was too weak to walk...I was hairless and I just didn't have it in me. How could we be a fundraising force with one co-captain ripe with chemo-brain and the other the care-giver trying to give care to said co-captain? Somehow happened we created a team...17 friends and family members showed up. We walked, I wheeled and we raised more than $900 that went to area blood cancer patients and research. It really showed me the power of being involved.

So I invite you now to join me in
September 28th 2007 at Monroe Community College, Rochester NY.
We walk to celebrate and commemorate the lives touched by blood cancers.

UP NEXT...this latest project I've been involved with is through a pretty hip organization...

I'm Too Young For This!

Thanks to Matthew Zachary and an organization he heads nicknamed i2y or I'm Too Young For This I am really seeing the power of young cancer survivorship and advocacy. Frankly, Matthew is a force to be reckoned with in cancer issues that relate to the young adult population and a pretty cool guy. And he had the good sense to add me to the i2y Advisory Council, which right there means he's a very good judge of character. wink wink

So anyway, why am I telling you all this? Because first of all, not all cancer survivors fit the AARP demographic...and if you know someone now, a peer, co-worker or friend that is dealing with need to direct them to this site. Seriously, if you do know someone and have heard yourself say "he/she is too young for that" the odds are you were half right. They are too young for this...but perhaps they also felt too young for the help offered, the resources available and the support around them. Maybe they went to one support group meeting and never returned because they felt out of place.

I am working on organizing what Matthew calls a "Stupid Cancer Happy Hour" right here in Rochester. That's right. Imagine a group of young adults in a bar one night drinking and celebrating survivorship. Yeah buddy. Oh, yeah, and this is not an exclusive invitation. You don't have to show the C card or have ridden the Chemo Canal to come...just support the cause and support the young survivors you toast with.

SO with that in mind...if you are in Rochester, Buffalo...heck anywhere in driving distance...I want to hear from you! I am in the very beginning stages of planning this know basic things like where and when to have it. BUT the important thing is finding a base of young survivors who really want to get together for a night of common ground, socializing and supporting a phenomenal organization.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Serious questions

Do you take things for granted?
I am going to go out on a limb here and assume yes.
We all take things for granted.
I took a lot of things for granted even though I considered myself a relatively grateful person before cancer.

This past weekend Gramma had a stroke. I was there with her at that moment. It happened so fast...and as she faded and I held her in my arms I felt that I was losing her. Had I taken for granted the state she was in just moments before? The truth is yes.

Now she's back from the hospital and I'm sitting here tapping away on my keyboard listening to my Mom and Aunt Betty help her in the bathroom. I'm not sure what's next...I'm not sure that she knows either. I'm not sure whether she'll be able to live in the same house she raised her children in anymore. The simplest personal tasks are all the more difficult for her now. It's a fulltime job for my aunt now and inevitably a decision will have to be made.

Taking something for granted is normal...that's why I said in the beginning of this blog that all of us take things for granted. Just admit it. We bemoan some things in life, never fully appreciate the status quo.
That's just the way it is.

But it kind of makes you feel grateful to be young and terrified to grow old all at the same time. Wait a second...I want to grow old don't I? After all...looking at the possibility that you might die young scares you into hoping you'll grow old.
More time...when it seems to be limited...all we really want is more time.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

House Cleaning

My next door neighbor is doing his spring cleaning. Umm...he may have the timeframe a little messed up...we're on the heels of Labor Day.
Well, he has chosen a rather unique way to do the task.
The crashing and banging was my first clue and I had to investigate.

When I got to my own window I saw the top floor window of the neighboring house wide open. I watched a hand passing out boxes and an assortment of items and releasing them. Items which can only be classified as garbage-like were rolling off the sloping roof and down three stories banging to the ground...half of which is my yard. That yard mind you, as we speak, is covered with absolute garbage strewn everywhere.

Now suppose I was to have gone outside innocently to say, water the flowers right before the onslaught began. BAM! It would have seemed such a pity to have gone through all this melodrama with cancer treatments just to be put to an end by a blow to the head from a folding lawn chair and a giant Cuisinart box.

I do not propose to suggest to him a better way to do this. Perhaps he just doesn't like the whole process of carrying things downstairs but my brave sister who had come over decided to call up to this litterer.
"Uh...what do you think you are doing?"
"Cleaning the attic"
Well sure yeah...isn't that how all of us clean our attics.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Continental drift, sleep deprivation shift

You say its been almost a month since you've heard from me..
Well, must say it's been a dazing three weeks of European adventures
Let's recap for the sake of rendering some organization for the bits and pieces I reminisce on in later posts.
Friday the 13th of July...arrived in London.
Saturday the 14th of July (Bastille Day) flew to Paris...narrowly missed the flight.

Sunday the 15th...still in Paris

Monday the 16th...early train to Brussels, the reputed Chocolate capital of the world

Tuesday the 17th...train from Brussels back to London

Wednesday the 18th...departed from London on Contiki's European Magic Tour, arrived in Amsterdam

Thursday the 19th...Amsterdam by day tour...much less seemly, back on bus to head to Rhine Valley in Germany. Dinner time arrived in St. Goar, Germany.
None of the souvenirs below made the weight requirement or price to fit into the suitcase, mind you.

Friday the 20th...Munich...Have you ever wandered around Munich on a Friday night with a pack of 40 total 20 and 30 somethings...the fun will find you.

Saturday the 21st...Innsbruck Austria, evening arrival in Venice

Sunday the 22nd... Venice...ahhh...Venice

Monday the 23rd... Lucerne Switzerland

Tuesday the 24th late afternoon...Paris again
Wednesday the 25th... ahhh Paris

Thursday the 26th...End of Contiki tour. The bus hauled it from Paris to record time.Just in time to connect with the reunion peeps at the West End for a show...then went back with them to Oxford.

Friday the 27th
and Saturday the 28th---Oxford
Sunday the 29th---boarded a bus for North Yorkshire...Ripon
Bus got lost in Leeds...
Finally got to Ripon
Monday---Ripon with the cousins
Tuesday--- Ripon with the cousins
Wednesday AUGUST 1st---boarded early train...from Harrogate, England...
changed at Leeds, changed at Birmingham, changed at Reading Station...
boarded bus for London Heathrow Airport.
Home THURSDAY AUGUST 2nd 1 a.m.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I have gotten used to the white noise of my fan...I've taken two cold showers today and my bedroom airconditioners been working over time. It's freakin hot!
I can't stand the humidity. That's the thing I have the hardest time with...that sticky disgusting feeling that just leaves you feeling uncomfortable pretty much all the time. Don't get me wrong...I love summer and I do love warm weather but when that mercury rises past the 80 mark, past 85 and keeps creeping I start to get a little batty. One doesn't have to be too paranoid to consider the possibility that the climate crisis may not be just hype. Not that sweltering summer days and global warming are mutually exclusive, but it just makes you think a little more about it from time to time. It's a reminder of weather extremes that we might be facing in the future if we don't turn things around.
Now consider the element of profuse perspiration. A public leader who has largely ignored environmental issues might think a little harder about such issues if he took a good look at this nice little momento picture. Wow, the heat is on, apparently.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

It's roughly 5 days till my Euro-trip. I've been spending the past few days relaxing at my Aunt's cottage on Lake Ontario. The other day, just before sundown I paddled down the Salmon River in my kayak, taking a few moments to breathe in the silence and the stillness that is the utter antithesis to what my life will be for nearly 3 weeks- Chaotic, crazy and harried.

I am starting to feel anxious about making all those flights and trains and connections and bopping around a continent- throwing caution to the wind. The welcome quiet kayak ride gave me a little time to think about all that's ahead. It also gave me a little time to think about how far I've come.
The excitement of stepping outside of my comfort zone is causing some kind of chemical reaction- a rush. I can't believe that this kind of thing is possible for me now.

One year ago I was frail, hairless and too sick to really feel alive. To be honest sometimes through treatment it felt as though I was a dead girl walking. I spent most of my time at the hospital, being a human pin cushion.On this journey I've been watching people around me fight...fighting myself and never feeling quite sure that tomorrow was a given. It wasn't. When you stare down the uncertainty of tomorrow you start thinking about next time...if you have the chance, you'll live life a little gutsier.

One year ago I couldn't handle walking through a mall. Now I'm going to be zipping around a continent. I wanted to prove this to myself again- that I really am alive and am not just the sum of my illnesses. I'm capable of challenging my body.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Funny you should ask

On July 4th I had the pleasure of seeing Funny Cide race...and win.
Depending on your familiarity with the sport of horse racing you may or may not care. Or maybe the name Funny Cide means nothing to you.
Four years ago you might have heard his was nearly shouted from the rooftops as he narrowly missed becoming the 1st triple crown winner in a quarter of a century.

Four years later Funny is still racing. Consider the improbability of a seven year old horse, racing against thoroughbreds half his age and you might just take a moment to ponder it--for sentementality sake at least. This "gutsy gelding" still has the fire and it was thrilling to be able to watch it live and front of thousands of fans at Finger Lakes Racetrack...not the glory of the Derby or even the Preakness but a fine place to still show he can run his heart out.

If you didn't know this...Funny Cide isn't owned by a millionaire, a rap artist or someone of aristocratic background. He is owned by a group of middle class high school friends from Sacketts Harbor NY. They love their horse and they just get a kick out of the whole experience, which really has not spoiled their down-to-earth nature. I know just from talking to them. They were gracious enough to sign posters and memorabilia for fans for nearly three hours, chatting, laughing and kidding with everyone that passed by the line. Wonderful people...and maybe that's part of the magic behind this horse.

I like stories of the underdogs (or underhorses). Maybe that's why I was so drawn to Funny Cide's own story. Something improbable, something against the odds that happens to give you belief that life has possibility.
Going there and seeing him sail past those other horses just did my heart good. Mom and I could have cried when we ran out onto the track to try to get a glimpse of him in the winners circle. Alan Garcia, his jockey, mudsplattered and winded signed my poster. Sure, the Wadsworth Memorial wasn't the Kentucky Derby, but it was a win to give Funny back a champion's confidence.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

If it's Thursday...I must be in Rochester

My mom made a special trip to an out of the way video rental place to rent "If it's Tuesday this must be Belgium" for me. My guess is if your in my age group, you haven't seen the movie...but who knows. It was made in the late 60s.

To sum up: it's about a hodge-podge group of Americans who take a tour bus around Europe. The funny thing is the movie highlighted basically all the cities that I will be going to in two weeks. However, there are many things in this movie that I dare not duplicate on my tour.

First of all I have learned a thing or two from these hapless American weirdos.

Lessons learned: I'm writing these down.

  • It's not pick-pockets you have to watch out for, but kleptomaniacs on the tour bus.

  • Don't become accidently engaged to a European cousin after the language barrier plays out over dinner.

  • If the man who played Mr. Roper becomes a hot commodity anyone in Europe could find love.

  • At the same time try not to fall in love with the lecherous lothario tour director, you'll only end up with a broken heart and a penicillin shot.

  • Never fall asleep next to a pervert with a camera.

  • If you run out of money for food, there's always plenty of cheese to be had.

Gosh, it's hard to believe that two weeks from now I will be in London. I think my Mom is getting excited vicariously for me. Hence, the movie choice. Here is a little look at where I will be's quite a whirlwind tour but certainly an adventure.