Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Soaking...Part Deux: Day Two

Three States in One Day (One New One)!

Well, I MADE it to SLC the first day, but I sure didn't wake up the next morning feeling like I could so much as get out of bed, let alone go on further! So it was a very slo-o-o-ow morning. We visited with our friends and didn't even say our goodbyes and leave until after 12:30 in the afternoon. Good thing it was our "short" day, right?

We didn't have far to go before we turned Big Blue east and headed toward Park City, Utah and Laramie and Cheyenne, Wyoming. We've never been in Wyoming, so this is another state to add to our list of "places seen" (I like that). Once again, I'll let the pictures tell the story for me; so enjoy!

Leaving Salt Lake City, the area is dry and covered with buttes...

...and rock formations...

...before giving way to the mountainous area around Park City, Utah.

Then, many of the Wyoming miles look just like this...

...but if you look closely, you can see a herd of ANTELOPE!
(They all turned and ran the instant they heard our vehicle stop!)

I had once again located hot springs along our route in which we could stop and soak; and since my body was REALLY hurting after YESTERDAY'S miles, there was NO WAY I was passing it up. So we turned south of the highway for a little 20-mi detour. AAAAAAAhhhhhhhhhhh!

The bridge over the river near the hot springs.

The hot springs pool and bath house.

These hot springs are 129 deg and have no cold water mixed with it,
so a dunk in the pool it feeds lasted no longer than 3 to 5 minutes!

Crystal clear right to the sandy bottom!

Aaahhh! This is what I came here for!

I bet we didn't soak more than half an hour there, it was so hot! But boy, did it nearly INSTANTLY relax the muscles in my back that were painin' me. We climbed back into BB at sunset and headed back to the highway.

The Wyoming sunset in our rear window.

Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and the crescent moon gave us a beautiful view as we stopped in Laredo for Mickey D's fruit smoothie and coffee drinks. Sadly, I couldn't get any decent night pictures of the beautiful sky.

As we left Laredo, I could see the light pollution of Cheyenne; from Cheyenne I could see the light pollution of Boulder, CO. But that was NOTHING compared to the light pollution of the Denver area.

The last time I flew through Denver, the city and its bedroom communities had sprawled into quite a metropolis. Now, it's a nearly endless megalopolis. Wow!

Since we have friends in the area, that's what we did on Sunday and again during the work week (when I wasn't sleeping; the trip quite broke me [again], but at least the hotel fed me meals). On the last night of our time in Denver, we took off to a hot springs not too far away with some of our friends. These waters have been sought out by the Native Americans as healing waters since early times, and they have the bonus of being in a CAVE!

Painting depicting early native American annual migration to the hot springs.

Heading down the stairwell to the hot springs.

Unfortunately for the photography side of this blog, it was VERY steamy in there! We loved it; plus the water was 115 deg. We soaked till absolute noodledom bliss! So you can bet our last night there, we slept WELL!

Bathing pools everywhere; pick your temperature preference!

The further upstream, the hotter.

Well, I did stay up plotting the route home, since this was when the REAL road trip was gonna begin! So stay tuned!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Soaking My Head, Part Deux

Four States in One Day!


I hadn't even finished posting about our little weekend road trip to the central coast when DH was packing us up again for another road trip---a much longer one this time. For the third month in a row, DH has had to travel to Colorado. So instead of flying this time, we loaded me into Big Blue so I could tag along.

I have a very nice super-deluxe pillow chair that goes in wheelchairs, et cetera, to help prevent pressure sores, and Big Blue is a deluxe ride itself. So I was game to try this little adventure. And since I'm still going through the 6 wk of continued cellular ablation from the Cyberknife treatment, soaking my head (really my whole body) at hot springs along the way sounds good to me!

We set off at 0730 and drove pretty steadily, making our first "rest stop" in St. George, Utah. (Mickey D's has made road tripping easier for me now, thanks to the addition of their fruit smoothies and yogurt/granola parfaits.) Once again, I'll let the pictures do most of the tellin' for me...

A whole lot of empty Nevada miles...

Zoom of a Northern Nevada peak.

Oops...I missed the Nevada-Arizona border
Welcome sign. Will this do?

Starting into Virgin River Gorge in Northern Arizona.

Driving Virgin River Gorge in Northern Arizona.

The Virgin River.

After our stop in St. George, we set about navigating to our first hot springs stop, one on private property on a huge ranch. The owners graciously allow people to use the hot springs, and I greatly appreciate their generosity and faith that most of us know how to respect a natural wonder.

Heading further north in Utah.

A natural hot springs pool bubbles up from an
underground tube in the middle of ranch cow pasture.

The water is a beautiful Hawaiian blue.

That dark hole down there is a tube that links to other hot springs ponds.

It's a DEEP pool!

We enjoyed soaking, swimming, stretching, and seeing who could touch the bottom with the people already there (Nebraska and Washington college students and a mother and daughter from Provo). The water was approximately 100 deg; not really hyperthermic but definitely enough to ease the ache of the miles (but I was soaking and dunking my head plenty anyway).

an hour or so, nearly everyone was gone and we were hyperthermic enough to enjoy the brisk walk back in the wind without freezing. We climbed into the truck and made it back to the Interstate just around sundown. With the hour forward we jumped/lost, we still made it to our friends' home in SLC by 2200.

I SLEPT so well that night!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Soaking My Head

Hippocrates Was A Very Smart Guy

Those of you who have my hikingforhope calling cards know that I have a couple of sayings that I rotate on them, including one from Grandma Whitney (from back in 2008 when I was getting ready to climb Mt. Whitney). Lately, I've added one from Hippocrates that expresses my hikingforhope sentiment: "Walking is man's best medicine."

Hippocrates also
wrote about the healing aspect of water, and especially believed in balneotherapy. As I've always been open-minded on this journey (as long as what's being proposed "does no harm"), one of the things I've done is seek out natural mineral hot springs in which to soak my body.

I also have read that
hyperthermia helps the radiation do its job. So having just done Cyberknife and having at least 6 wk ahead of me during which the radiation will continue ablating cancerous cells, I was eager to SOAK my sore, aching, tired body in some GOOD mineral hot springs. If I was lacking any minerals that were causing the body aches, my skin is my largest "organ" and the fastest way to soak up what I need.

I know of many springs, but my wanderlust has me yearning to see new sights and sites...plus I owe a trip to my German hiking buddy, as she kindly took me and dropped me in the desert hot springs not too long ago. So I found a springs I've always wanted to check out on the coast -- 104 deg. Perfect for soaking my head!

We threw our gear into Big Blue II late Friday, went and kidnapped my hiking buddy (with her permission so we wouldn't break any federal laws), and headed off for a weekend of soaking bliss. Since it's still so hard for me to write, I'll let the pictures tell most of the story...

The campsite was just wide enough for our tent.

Olympic-sized pool in which my cohorts indulged themselves.

I also skipped the water slides.

104 deg of sulphur-smelling, stress-reducing, muscle-noodling bliss!

After soaking until the sun exposure combined with my chemos became a problem, we headed back to our camp to build a fire and roast some bratwursts. I took my lunch down to the open field (the nonhookup RV slots were empty) and ate in the warmth of the sun, then wandered around looking at the wildflowers beginning to pop out. Just walking is tough exercise for me as I have been experiencing bad muscle spasms and weakness in both legs in addition to instability.

A beautiful day to just sit and enjoy while eating my lunch.

Wildflowers are starting to pop. We saw many coastal hills
starting to show bright orange poppies from top to bottom.

DH and my hiking buddy dealt with our fire and lunch makings while I changed into warmer clothes for a trip up the coast to enjoy the scenery and show my hiking buddy the elephant seals. It's past the seal pupping season, but there's always a few still hanging around this time of year.

Listen to that wind! That's why I wore the warm clothes!

No problem telling which are the males!
Check out his elephant-like proboscis (schnozz).

You can tell which one is the pup from this season; it's still wrinkly from a lack of blubber.

Oh, so that's why they're called flippers!

We went as far north as the old lighthouse (still in service as a military facility) north of Hearst Castle before turning around and making our way back to the hot springs RV resort. We stopped along the way both going and returning.

Piedras Blancas Lighthouse, since 1875.

We walked around and enjoyed the quaintness of Cambria.

Morro Bay.

The ride back to camp.

By the time we made it back to camp, the sun was behind the hills. DH volunteered to get the dinner fire started whilst we went off to have a lovely evening soak in the hot springs. With the sun now off the pool, I didn't have to worry about the rash from the photosensitive chemotherapy getting any worse.

We enjoyed an excellent dinner of applewood bacon-wrapped steak, corn on the cob, and garlic potatoes all done over the fire. Total cost? $10! Do we know how to live well low-dough, or what?

We turned in early that night; with an 11 a.m. checkout, we would have to start packing as soon as we got up.

The next morning was gloomy and gray, perfect weather for visiting the coast in
winter. We packed up and headed down to Pismo beach, to show our hiking buddy the monarch butterflies that migrate there each winter. (I'd wanted to go last October, but couldn't due to brain mets/treatment.) Sadly, we were too late to see them this season, but we made a pact to come back again this fall or winter.

Before we turned Big Blue toward home, there was one last thing to do. I came to stick my toes in the ocean for my sister's birthday. So that's just what DH and I did.

The ride home was so relaxing, our bodies limp from the healing soaking as we sang along with the tunes. We even saw a deer, though we didn't get a photograph. And even with the time change (Spring forward!), we were still home by 4:30 p.m. It was an excellent weekend, and an excellent first road trip for me since Seattle.

P. S.
Want to learn more what this life is like for us pioneers? I think Suzanne D. captured very well both what it's like to be behind on everything (I'm now 9 years behind here at home!) and what it's like to deal with the brain mets. (I often tease my doctors that the brain mets symptoms have gone "from a two- to a four-margarita level"!)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Wreckin' the Curve: FIVE YEARS

"Today is the Day"

Mel Fisher, the famous treasure hunter, used to greet each day with the phrase, "Today's the day"; and that is exactly how I feel! You see, yesterday was THE DAY when I FINALLY got treatment for the 11 x 8 x 11 mm tumor that had planted itself on my cerebellum. We ZAPPED it so good with Cyberknife that it only took ONE 30-min session. The waiting to get there took 6 wk -- and remember, brain mets has a prognosis of 4-6 wk without treatment. It gets to be a real white-knuckler story around here sometimes!

Cyberknife reminds me of the Pixar lamp.
I love it; it makes it possible for me to forgo brain surgery!

This is what the doctor and the physicist are doing
while I'm lying on the table behind thick doors.

I get to lie on the table and look at the pretty sky ceiling above me...
sure beats brain surgery!

And boy, I could tell those invisible beams were stirring up a hornet's nest in there -- the entire time I was under the mask pinned to the table, my IAC was hurtin'! It eased up afterwards, though.

They had some good news for me, too: the specialized MRI done 3 wk after the brain MRI that revealed the new spot shows that it has not increased in size; and the spot on my spinal cord that we zapped last November is continuing to decrease even more. So we continue this "whack-a-mole" approach, but it's working.

I was SO HAPPY to have gotten treatment that we went to our favorite restaurant, Asian Garden in Duarte, for a celebratory meal. Then we headed to Glendora to Herbalenium to pick up more concentrated brown seaweed to get me through the next 6-8 wk before more imaging. I also did an ionic foot bath while I was there; it was the worst the water has ever been. (That stuff still boggles my mind; even if you attribute the colors to mineral changes, where the HECK does all the particulate matter come from? The foot bath looked like a very stagnant pond when my session was done.)

Since it was not much after noon and we still had hours of daylight, I convinced my chauffeur to drive up to the top of Mt. San Antonio (Baldy to we OC'ans) so we could "get high" hikingforhope style!

Mt. San Antonio.

End of the road.

Of course, I got out and walked at the end of the road...I can't wait to start feeling better and reclaiming my life! But it's still too early to push; I've got 6 wk of recovery ahead of me. So I picked out a tree up-slope on a tractor trail and walked to it before turning around. That was enough!

Tractor trail heading UP.

This tree and no further!

You can hardly tell the grade in this pic! Sheesh!

Cool Upland ruins we saw on the way home.
Anyone know about the history?

I have been stuck on the sofa, waiting for treatment and afraid to push my body too hard until I get treated, but guess what? TODAY IS THE DAY that the rebuilding begins!

And not only that, TODAY IS THE DAY that I had only a 5% prognosis of ever seeing...five years ago today, my doctor delivered the news that the cancer was back and spread throughout my body. I wasn't expected to make 6 months back then, let alone 5 years.
And for those of you keeping count, this is THE FOURTH TIME I have fought metastasis to the brain!

The MRIs still show the LM on the Vth cerebral nerve, but it remains stable and untreatable with Cyberknife in its current diffuse state.
Meanwhile, each day that I live is a day closer to the cure, like this recent news:

I hope, like me, you will greet each day with the certainty that one of these days will be THE day...the day my hearing is restored, the day my face is restored, the day when the cure is known to us, the day when we know we never ever have to fight cancer again.