Wednesday, October 25, 2017

PCR Results, Thoracentesis and an MRI

It has been a busy few months including a trip down south to visit kids and grand-kids, and dear friends and family. Prior to my trip I had a thoracentesis followed by a CT scan which indicated that my lung is currently not trapped; which is a good thing.
Belated Birthday Lunch!

Early Birthday Lunch!

The fact that the pleural effusion in the left lung, just will not "go away" and "stay away" I will most likely be giving Bosulif a go, real soon; it is so hard to abandon something that is working so well to control my leukemia, with minimal side effects, for the unknown.
So that is the update on THAT!

Next up is my right shoulder; my rotator cuff was injured two plus years ago, by a dancer. Last year I tried physical therapy and this year, while lugging my suitcase down a cobbled street in Paris, I believe that I "injured" my bicep, yanking my suitcase out of a cobbled pothole.  I heard the "pop", but it seemed fine the next day, and throughout the rest of the trip.

Once home, my right arm started to give me fits of pain and continually kept me up all night aching; I finally relented and had an MRI. What a strange machine; so hard to believe that all of that noise can create such amazing images. Thankfully ear plugs and headphones with music, made the time pass quickly.

The results, as expected, were not good and after seeing an orthopedic surgeon, surgery is scheduled for Oct. 27th. Due to my persistent pleural effusion, and the leukemia, I will be forgoing the typical "nerve block" and spending the night in the hospital, just so they can control the pain, and keep an eye on my vitals.

I do not know how they will control the pain, as I am not good with medications, and since Hydrocodone/Vicodin, seems to be the drug of choice, and I cannot stand it (it keeps me awake for hours, does nothing for the pain and is agitating to me), I am hoping that the ice machine will not only keep the swelling down, but will also help with the pain.

Needless to say, I am dreading this surgery; and while I have high hopes that it will be successful, I also have a fear that it will not. I truly believe that my muscles and tendons have been compromised by two rounds of the antibiotic Cipro, taken many years ago, which may interfere with the success of the surgery.

Of course we cannot know this until my surgeon actually opens up my shoulder and takes a look inside. I will remain hopeful and optimistic and pray that it is better, than it is now. I would really LOVE to have full range of motion and use of my right arm again!

So, next on the agenda is getting through pre-op, and trying to figure out how to live as a one armed bandit. I did ask about using my hand and wrist to knit, and/or crochet, and I believe that it will be a good way to keep the circulation flowing and the wrist from locking up, not to mention a way to keep my sanity!

Wish me LUCK!

PS: My PCR results came back at .06%!!!! Holding strong on another medication reduction!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Light the Night 2017 Sadness

As excited as I was to have surpassed my Light the Night goal, to help fund cures for blood cancers, I found myself a bit sadder this year, than in years past. I am sure that one of the reasons I was feeling "blue" was due to the fact that I had just returned from an eleven day trip visiting kids, grand-kids, family and friends, along with a visit to my oncologist.These trips are always wearing, even though I enjoy them immensely.

That coupled with the fact that my grandest "pooh-bah", Alisha, was no longer heading up the Boise chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I understand why she is no longer there, and the gals in the office are still awesome, but she is still sorely missed!

Alisha was one to "fight" for patients like me, that are surviving, yet still in treatment; we are Fighters! We do not quite fit into the "Survivor" category, and she understood this, so for the past three years, she made certain that those of us still fighting the good fight, had Survivor/Fighter shirts for the walk. It looks like now if I want to "fight" for these shirts, I will have to take up the fight nationally, without my greatest cheerleader!

As we were walking around the park, checking out the event, I noticed a few changes, and was told that from now on, everything must be the same at every walk, per "National Standards"; hence the short sleeve t-shirts, despite the fact that we are in Boise in Oct.! Brrrrrrr...... And no "Reflections of Life" wall.

They had a new blow up "In Memory" igloo, where I met a sweet young lady named Abby; she was a volunteer, and her father is battling colon cancer. She asked me when I finished my treatment and what type of blood cancer I had; and there it was......on my shirt it said I was a Survivor.

I had to go into the song and dance of, "Well, I am actually still in treatment, and will be for the rest of my life, or until a cure is someday, hopefully found." I told her that in the past we had "Fighter" shirts and she wholeheartedly agreed that there should be a separate category for those of us, still in treatment. She said her Dad is fighting hard every single day, and they are all looking forward to the day which he completes his treatment and is cancer free; that is when they will consider him a "Survivor!"

I find it interesting that this sweet, young girl understands this concept better than the organization that actually hosts this walk, and I pray for her and her family, and especially her father to beat his cancer and to become a true Survivor!

As we were talking, just inside the "Memory Igloo," I found that I just could not write down all of the names, of all of the dear people we have lost, to CML. Every year my list gets longer and longer, and this year, I think partially because I was just so exhausted, I simply couldn't do it. It just made me too sad, and the list has  become too long; sometimes things are just too overwhelming, so I allowed myself this get out of jail free card, and accepted the fact that I was drawn to this igloo, so that Abby and I could meet, and give each other strength; for this I am grateful.

After leaving the tent, I continued to become more aggravated because I was walking around with a shirt that implied I was a "Survivor," just like all of the people who have lost their battles with CML would have been considered. Fact of the matter is that they were all "fighters" fighting every day, still in treatment, yet lost their battle to CML.

Yes, they survived living with CML, for a period of time, until they could no longer fight; they were "Fighters" in every sense of the word, from the first moment that they were diagnosed with chronic mylogenous leukemia, till the very end.

While I wholeheartedly believe in the power of the Light the Night event,  I do wish that they would recognize the awkward position which they put the patients that are still fighting their battle with a blood cancer, in. They do not understand how disheartening it is, to have so many people congratulating you on "beating" your disease, when in reality, you are still fighting for your life. This is not limited to those of us that live with a chronic blood cancer, but to each and every person that is in the throes of treatment, fighting every single day.

You can see the differences, in the eyes of people who have completed their treatment and are "cured' and those that are still fighting.

I am not certain that I have the energy to fight this fight alone, to get the LLS to start recognizing all of the patients that are still in treatment  for their blood cancer, as a separate category, as a "Fighter" category, but with the help of others, we may be able to get them to actually recognize the specific people, which they are fighting so hard, to help.

What do you think?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Light the Night Success 2017

Once a year, in September, blood cancers have their turn in the spotlight. Fortunately for me, the timing is perfect; September just happens to be the month prior to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's, Light the Night Walk Fundraiser in Boise, which seems to fall the first week in October.

I have participated in fundraising, for the LLS, for the past four years. Prior to that, I had ZERO experience in fundraising of any sort. I look back now, to the first time that I set up my fundraising page, and set my goal at $250. I was concerned that I would not reach my goal, and tentatively sent out an email to my friends and family. I also went "public" and shared my fundraising page to Facebook.

Asking friends and family for money, for any reason, was quite uncomfortable to me, and when the very first donation was posted on my page, I was shocked and astounded, but also, very encouraged.

What I did not realize, was how willing my friends and family were to help me not only acheive my goal, but to surpass it; beyond my wildest dreams. I quickly reached my original goal and tentatively set it higher; it seemed that every time I set a new goal, it was surpassed.

I had so many people, generously donating to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, on my behalf, that I realized just how blessed I am. I set a meager goal, not believing in my ability to reach it, when in truth, with my tribe behind me as a group, all things are possible.

The love and support that each and every one of you shows, during this campaign, gives me the stregth to continue fighting chronic mylogenous leukemia, until a cure is found. If the cure does not come in my lifetime, then I will continue to fight until the bitter end, knowing that we all did our part, in helping to find a cure for blood cancers, some day.

I had no idea how much your donations would mean to me personally, but your support then, and throughout the following three years, has meant the world to me. You make my heart swell with pride, and I cannot thank you enough. This visual support gives me such a boost, but all of your friendships and verbal support, hugs and encouragement , every single day mean even more.

I often apologize for my nagging nature, during the month of September, but I also have come to realize that when you know someone with cancer, or another type of disease, or tragedy in their life, that you often do not know what to do, or how to help, or support that person.

I know that I often feel helpless, when I see others in need, and I don't know what to do, but contributing to a cause, that they believe in, often gives me a way to not only show my support, but helps me to feel as though I have done "something" to contribute to their plight; and make a difference. It makes me feel good; it makes me feel useful, and I hope that it shows just how much I care.

Understanding how "helping" makes me feel, I must also realize, that I shouldn't feel "guilty" for allowing others to do the same; for me. Fundraising is an extremely humbling experience, and to see the outpouring support that I have received fills me with gratitude and joy.

In 2014, we raised $1710, in 2015 our total was $1825, last year in 2016 we raised $2250 and this year, with the help of a dear friend, Lynda Wolters, who was recently diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer, we raised $2515!!!!

That is a Grand Total of $8297; in four years!  That puts us at number 9, in the Friends and Family category for Boise's, 2017 Light the Night Walk; pretty impressive, in my opinion; you guys ROCK!
Boise actually surpassed their goal, as well; our whole group raised a total of $430,431; as of this date. Donations are still coming in, but this has been a record breaking year.

Thank you to all who donated to my 2017 Light the Night Fundraiser; your generosity will help to find a cure for blood cancers.

Until next year...........stay healthy and happy!

Donations for 2017

Friday, September 22, 2017

Gratitude:PCR Results After My Jaunt Through Europe: With Many Sprycel Breaks!

Grateful for every day!
Dunt-da-da-Daaaahhh.....The results are in! Despite missing more than four weeks of my life saving medication, Sprycel, while touring around Europe for five weeks (two weeks were prior to our trip, and all breaks were physician approved) my PCR results remain "STABLE"!!

My PCR results in April 2017 were .061, and upon returning in July 2017, they were .065!!! To say that I was shocked would be an understatement!! Do you think it might have been all of the holy water and prayers? Or just plain old, good luck!?

My journey with CML began in February 2011; I have been on varying doses of Sprycel for the past six-plus years. There have been ups and downs, good days and bad, days full of frustration, tears and anger, but mostly there have been days of being grateful to be alive.

When I was newly diagnosed, I had no idea what the future held; I read everything that I could find on CML, I asked every question that I could think of, and I searched for the "perfect" CML specialist, for me. I prayed a lot, I cried a lot and I put on my happy face for those I loved.

I looked for the silver lining, and my new direction in life. What I have found is an entire network of other people; who, like me, are living with a chronic cancer; I have found that despite the doctor's telling me, that I was "unusual", because I was so much younger than the typical CML patient, this is not necessarily the case. I know CML patients as young as four years old; CML does not appear to discriminate based on age, as  there are people living with CML, of all ages, shapes and sizes.

What I have come to realize is that despite the complications and side effects, which come along with the territory of living with a chronic cancer,  there is an underlying theme of hope and joy, from all of the wonderful people that I have met along this journey.

We all have good days and bad, some worse than others, but there is always HOPE and LOVE and SUPPORT; we are a community that truly cares about each other, and I am so grateful for each and every one of you who have added so much to my life.

Without my CML brother's and sister's I would be lost; we understand each other's hopes and fears; we cheer each other on, and commiserate when others are having a bad day. We understand each other and for this,  I will be eternally grateful.

Happy National CML Day!!!

Donations for 2017 Light the Night!

My CML Diagnosis was a SHOCK!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

My CML Sister; Cheryl Hay,Still in Out Hearts!

I wrote this post right after Cherly passed; I can scarcely believe she has been gone three years! She will forever be in my hearrt!

I believe that the passing of CML sister, Cheryl Hay, on September 22, 2014 (Australian time) is no coincidence. I believe that Cheryl was sent to us to inspire and motivate us with her non-stop humor, courage and optimism, and that she left this world on National CML Day for a reason. That reason being to encourage us to do everything that we can to help raise funds to find a cure for this disease. One of the goals on her Bucket List is to raise one million dollars for research; this is the first year that we have done the Light the Night Walk for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and our goal is $1000; we raised $2000!

I have continued to raise money for Light the Night, every year and through the generous donations of friends and family, have consistently raised over $2000! There is still time to donate to this year's fundraiser!

National CML Day will never pass again without me, and hundreds around the world remembering the strong, young, optimistic, young lady that faced CML like a true warrior. She never complained, and faced each and every challenge with a big smile, and an even bigger dose of optimism; she shared her journey with us and taught us how to live, and die with grace.

Sharing her journey hits home to many of us that are currently living with CML; it is only natural for us to put ourselves in her shoes.  We love hearing success stories and hate hearing about battles lost; fact of the matter is that both are a reality, and that we will continue to hear stories of triumph and tragedy, for the rest of our lives.

What we can do is continue to live well, enjoy our lives’, tick off our Bucket Lists and help to raise money for a cure. We can do this in Cheryl’s honor and the honor for all of those that have also lost their battle with CML.

For those of you that are wondering, here is Cheryl’s journey, in her words:

“Just quickly for those of you whom do not know my story. I was diagnosed with CML in June 2012 and tried Glivec, Dasatanib and Nilotonib with no luck at keeping my CML under control. The TKIs either gave me nasty allergic reactions (a seizure being one!!) or just didn't work (at one point of time my PCR was 203%! The ideal range is 0.0%!!

In Sept 2013, I developed a huge swollen lymph gland in my neck and luckily my Haematologist was all over it when I saw him. After a whirlwind of days of tests he informed me that my CML was now in 'blast crisis' (it presents the same in the bone marrow biopsy as Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL). I had to commence chemo the following week. I would have chemo for 3 months and then have a Bone Marrow Transplant. There was no time to freeze my eggs beforehand so I will now no longer be able to have children. If I do not have this treatment I will die in a matter of months. Due to my uncontrolled CML journey, previous cancers, etc I am a 'high-risk patient of relapsing post BMT' Phew! Quite a lot of info to take on board!!

So originally I was meant to have BMT around Xmas, however I became very unwell with an infectious virus so it delayed treatment. Subsequently in March-another huge setback-BOTH anonymous BMT donors lined up for me FAILED THEIR MEDICAL TESTS!! What are the odds of that happening right??! So the BMT team had to re-commence a whole NEW search for a donor!
Anyway, today is the day that the process 'officially begins!' I still cannot believe after all the bumps, tears and set-backs that it is really happening!!!

Today I am having my Central Line inserted and will commence pre-BMT Chemo.

I will go to the Chemo Outpatients Department every day, up to and including Tues (when I will be admitted to hospital) Wed I have chemo but Thurs there is NONE (they call it a 'REST DAY"-sounds nice doesn't it??) MY BMT is Fri June 6th.

I'm feeling very confident about the BMT being a success against my CML. We don't receive much info about our donors obviously due to confidentiality reasons, however I do know that the donor is a young 24yr old Aussie male, and our tissue typing is a perfect 10/10 match! You cannot ask for better stats than that! Obviously I am still nervous but I am just so relieved my transplant is finally going to happen and cannot wait to beat leukaemia and be able to live life again!”

Once stating her story, Cheryl continued to share her journey; the good the bad and the ugly of it, right up until the very end; she fought long, she fought hard and now she is at rest.

There will be no more pain for Cheryl; I can only hope and pray that I have her sense of grace and peace when it is my turn.

Thank you, Cheryl; your light will continue to shine.

Please consider donating to our Light the Night Walk in Cheryl's honor.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

What's One More Thoracentesis?

As suspected, and expected, I have accepted (HAHAHAHA) the fact that I need to have another thoracentesis. No biggie; I am now a pro at having a needle/cather slipped between my ribs and into the pleural sac, around my left lung!

This is an outpatient procedure, which they perform at St. Luke's, in downtown Boise. The fact that they are always on-time, leaves me little time to fret over the procedure, itself. I have gotten to know the usual techs, due to the frequency of this procedure, so when a "new guy" showed up to do the procedure, I was wary.

I told him that Kevin had done my first procedure and he had "done it the best"! Just as I was touting Kevin's horn, he walked in to observe "Bill", from Florida. Bill and I were chatting about Florida, as the assistant was laying out the instruments used in the procedure.

I told him that he had big shoes to fill, and that the shoes were on the guy standing right in front of him. I asked if he was going to use the aerosol Lidocaine to start, and he said if I wanted him too, he would. I told him to go ahead and "Snap-it" it to me!

As Kevin and I were talking, I heard Bill, say, "OK, we are draining." Huh?? How in the world did that happen??? Typically I am told to "Be quiet", "Hold still", and "Spread your ribs." And then I wait and anticipate the amount of time that it takes for the worst part to be over; the needle to be inserted, and then removed, with the catheter left draining the fluid.

Bill had literally inserted the needle, pulled the sample tubes and hooked up the collection container without me even knowing that he was doing the procedure; HE is the new "King of the Thoracentesis Procedure!" It was awesome, and easy, and I prayed that once the tube and fluid were removed, that I would be able to breathe easier.

They removed 1.3 liters of fluid, which is actually the least amount that has ever been removed, and felt as though they had removed "most" of the fluid, that was there. Since we  all wish to avoid the extreme side effects of coughing and pain that can occur, after the procedure, due to a large amount of fluid being removed, we typically ere on the side of caution.

I am not sure exactly what I anticipated, as far as the amount of fluid they collected, as I was off of Sprycel for two, two week periods and several other days, while I was in Europe (oncologist approved). One one hand, I expected there to be much less, on the other, it concerns me that the underlying "cause" may not really be the Sprycel, but the fact that the lung is actually trapped.

I suppose it will be a wait and see how quickly it refills and a good conversation with the pulmonologist, before really getting to the bottom of it. With my lowered dose of Sprycel, I really do not believe that it is 100% of the cause.

And the beat goes on......

It is National Leukemia & Lymphoma Awareness Month!
Please donate to my Light the Night Fundraiser, if you can!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Light the Night 2017

It is that time of year again; Blood Cancer Awareness Month, and the perfect time to start my Light the Night Fundraiser, for the fourth time.

I was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer, chronic mylogenous leukemia, on February 9, 2011. I having been "living" with cancer for six plus years, and keep holding out for the cure! I know that I am on of the fortunate ones, whose CML has thus far been treatable, but there are many whom I know which have not been so lucky.

I am holding out for the cure, which I pray will come during my lifetime. I know that I do not look like a typical "cancer patient", but the toll of taking an oral type chemotherapy pill daily is slowly wreaking havoc on my body. Many have told me that I "look great", which is wonderful, but what you don't see behind the facade, isn't pretty! lol

Blood cancers are the third leading cancer killer of Americans, and Leukemia is the most common cancer in teens and children. Amazingly, there are nearly 1.3 million people in the United States that are living with, or are in remission from leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma.

This is my one time a year to give back, and to fundraiser for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society's Light the Night Walk. Please join me in my efforts and donate to my fundraiser.

No donation is to small, or too big!! All donations are tax deductible and very much appreciated by me, and all of those that the LLS helps, and works tirelessly for, ever single day.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is the world's largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer, and our chapter in Boise is the BEST!!

Please, donate if you are able, and thank you for supporting me in this endeavor, as well as all of the emotional support I receive from all of my blog followers!

Click below to donate!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Facing the Music; Blood Test and Chest X-Ray

Guess what was waiting for me when we arrived home from Europe? No, it was not a ticket to go It was my PCR blood collection kit, meaning I had better get my bum down to town to have my chest x-rayed, and my blood drawn; I am holding out high hopes that all of the holy water which I doused myself in, while in Europe, either cured me, or held my leukemia at bay.

Over the past four months, I have been off of Sprycel for two, two weeks stretches, with a lowering regiment of 140 mg of Sprycel, two days on, one day off vs 140 mg of Sprycel five days a week; these results will be interesting, and prayerfully good. I will have to wait approximately two weeks for the results,

The chest x-ray, on the other hand, I will be able to get a glimpse of, right after they take it, and will have "real" results, within a day. I pretty much know what they will be!

Fast forward:

A quick look at my chest x-ray tells me that I will be needing another thoracentesis; no surprise, but as usual, not really looking forward to the procedure.

I have no doubt become quite adept at functioning with a moderate pleural effusion. I pretty much knew it accompanied me throughout Europe, yet it did not slow me down; much. Neuropathic pain in my feet and legs, along with fatigue did, but I believe that I have become accustomed to breathing without the full capacity of my left lung.

I find it interesting that thus far, only my left lung is affected; for this I am truly grateful! I know many wonder why I do not jump the Sprycel ship, but it is really difficult for me to abandon something that is controlling my CML so well, with only one "major " side effect.

The detriment to being in CML support groups is that you see all of the negative side effects of other CML patients, on other drugs, and when I compare what I go through on Sprycel, to what they live with, on other TKI's, I consider myself fortunate.

I know that at some point, I will hit the wall, and be willing to try something else; but I am not there, yet. The current, next drug of choice, seems to be Bosulif. Of course, hearing and reading all of the side effects that people suffer, does not have me eagerly anticipating this change. It took me a good four years, to adjust completely to Sprycel, and to feel good enough to take our trip to Europe; and I want to go back!

I do not want to spend another three, four or five year period adjusting to a new drug.

I work closely with a pulmonologist, who has on more than one occasion, has said, "As long as you are comfortable, and able to live life in an acceptable manner, why change what is working and controlling your CML?" I suppose that I agree with his thought process.

It seems that I always reassess my options after a thoracentesis, so I guess that we shall see.

For now, I am anxiously awaiting the results of my PCR blood draw, and scheduling a thoracentesis.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig!

Our flight from New York to Boise was uneventful, and I slept most of the way. It was a long day, but we were fortunate to have neighbors pick us up at the airport, and take us to the market on the way home.

Since we had the "essentials", we wouldn't have to go to town for a few days. High on the priority list was rest, a blood test and a chest x-ray.

Home had survived our extended absence, and was a welcoming site. The garden that Joe had planted before we left was thriving and our bed was more than inviting! I can honestly say that we have the most comfortable bed that I have ever slept in; so in that regard, there is no place like home!

Being home, I was reminded how extravagantly we, here in the United States,  live. Our home is HUGE, in comparison to the average peoples' homes in Europe; that, coupled with the fact that we live on two acres, makes me feel almost guilty! We are so blessed to have the opportunities that we have here, in the States, but wonder if we are as happy, and live life as genuinely, as those that live with so much less? Food for thought....

At any rate, it feels good to be home, but I am pleased that I am still "dreaming" in the European landscape, I will miss being ensconced in the history, and architecture of all of the places that I have been.

I feel a longing to return and continue to explore places that are so very different from what I know. I knew that our trip was going to be amazing, but I had no idea how truly magical it was going to be.

When I was diagnosed with leukemia, six and a half years ago, I had to cancel a trip to Cabo San Lucas; I was devastated and wondered if I would ever be able to travel out of the country again. I also remember the first time that I flew to another city, close to home; I was terrified that something would go wrong and I would be too far away from home, and my doctors, to get help.

As time passed, and I became more and more stable, and used to the fact that living with cancer was my new "normal", I became braver, and more adventuresome. Planning this trip took a fair amount of faith, and inner belief, and strength.

When I first started planning the trip, that nagging little voice of reason kept popping into my head; what if............? Over and over, I squashed images of "something" happening, medically, while I was abroad, and finally I just threw caution to the wind, and put it in God's hands.

A few months prior to leaving on our five week journey, my pleural effusion kicked up into high gear. I wasn't sure whether or not I was actually going to be able to make it to Europe, but with the guidance of my oncologists, I did!

I had a few scary days along the way, and tried really hard NOT to think about how far away from home I was, and I tried my best to set my worries on a shelf.

Living with a chronic type of cancer should mean exactly that; LIVING! Squeezing every last drop out of the life you have, and pushing on; even when you feel you cannot. There will always be the days that your heart desires more than you body can deliver, and you must listen then, but there are also the days that your heart and soul triumphs over your body, and pushes you to take one more step.

I cannot tell you how taking this trip has made me feel. Spending time in Europe has always been a dream of mine, one that I thought I may never be able to fulfill, because of cancer. But cancer did not win this time! This trip has empowered me, it has given me  the strength to take on anything thrown my way. It has lightened my heart and filled my soul with the endless possibilities that this life has to offer.

I plan to continue to Dance and Travel My Way Through Leukemia!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Headed Back to the States!

I must admit that I have mixed feelings; on one hand, I am excited to be going home, I know I need the rest, and I know I need to assess the damage I may, or may not have done to my body, regarding CML, while I have been gone. On the other hand, I want this fabulous journey to continue; there is still so much to see and explore, that I just want to keep on going. I do not know what it is about being in a foreign land, but for me it was exhilarating, inspiring, fascinating and freeing.

Since the airport is quite a ways away, we knew that we would be taking a bus, from Victoria Street station. We also knew that we could either use the tube, or a taxi, to get there. The tube would not cost us any additional money, but there are stairs and suitcases involved, so we opted for a taxi; (because it is easier). We are already succumbing to the "American" ways! lol

Fortunately, there are almost always taxis parked right in front of our apartment; waiting for calls from the Marriott, on the corner. So we were able to just snag one of those, and be on our way. We stopped at our beloved "Paul" boulangerie and grabbed our last baguette sandwich for the road. Oh, how I will miss the food and lifestyle in Europe!

While driving to Victoria Street Station, I soaked in the scenery. I tried to grasp images as they flew by, hoping to forever imprint them in my brain. It wasn't long before we were at the bus station and we were able to get tickets on the next bus; leaving in about half an hour.

There was a room full of people that would be traveling to the airport on the same bus, and I wondered where they would be going. I was intrigued by a young girl, with a backpack and wondered if she was headed "home", after trekking through Europe; a dream that I have often had, but now fulfilled by staying in hotels, as opposed to hostels, while rolling my suitcase, verses carrying my wares, on my back! I guess that is one major benefit to traveling when you are old.

The bus was quite comfortable and offered scenery of places that we had not visited, outside the center of London. I enjoyed seeing the neighborhoods, the graffiti,  the markets and the other old buildings and churches that were in the outskirts, of London.

Once we got to the airport, we were pleased to find that they actually had a button to push, to call for wheelchair assistance; I imagine that I could have trudged into the airport and found my way, but I was truly exhausted and grateful for the "ride". As it turned out, it was quite far, and quickly getting through security  and baggage check, was a blessing. The gentleman that was pushing me was a cancer survivor, and said a prayer and gave me a blessing; I swear, that between all of the blessings, prayers and holy water that I have received, I am sure that my leukemia has stayed in check, during this trip, despite the medication holidays and interruptions that I have endured.

Everything thus far, has been a breeze, but what fun would that be? Upon arriving to the  Norwegian Air, check-in and luggage drop, we had our first luggage surprise. Keep in mind that we basically have the same luggage going home, as when we came here; no extra bags, and very few "souvenirs". Plus we have used a great deal of liquid weight, since we have been gone, so that should reduce our weight. We flew TO Europe on Norwegian.

We have pre-paid for our two large suitcases, and we each had a small carry-on, that fits under the seat and a "personal" item; Joe a backpack and me a market bag, which I put my purse in. We thought we were all set.

But NO!

Joe went to put our large suitcases, on the scale,  for a weight check, and the gal at the counter said, "No", I want to weigh your carry-ons. (?) Huh? And she meant that  she wanted to weigh every single thing that we were carrying, on the plane.

So Joe put his little rolly on and she said, it is too "heavy", we were SO confused. What do you mean, too heavy?? It fits right under the seat?  What she meant was that because of how much it weighed, we had to pay for the carry-on, regardless of the fact that it fit right under the seat! It was ridiculous, and we paid the $40 for the extra few pounds, that were in the carry-on, that fit under the seat. I strategically hid my "personal" items under my pillow, so as not to encounter another $40 charge.

This is the very first time that I have ever experienced "weight" being factored into a carry-on baggage, so consider yourself for-warned; I WILL be looking at luggage requirements and restrictions more carefully, in the future! It was crazy.

Despite the luggage complications, we were still wicked early, and had a lot of time to spare. We enjoyed our sandwich and patiently waited for our plane; I was looking forward to getting on the plane, so that I could sleep! We chose to fly to New York, as opposed to Boise, as it was direct, and I figured that breaking up the long trip would be wise, as far as really pushing my limits.

We were planning to stay two nights, in New York, as the day that we would be there, was our anniversary, and I LOVE New York!

The plane was on-time, and we boarded with no complications; our expensive carry-on, slipping right under the seat; despite its' extra few pounds..............oh, brother!

The flight was uneventful, and we arrived at LaGuardia Airport on-time, but our day was far from over. Once again, our hotel was not at this airport, but at Newark Airport, the airport that we would be traveling from, when headed to Boise. So, one more bus ride before we could call it a day.

This was a LONG bus ride that took us into the city, where we had to get another bus to Newark airport, and then the shuttle to the hotel. Normally, I would be taking in the sites of NYC, but instead, I crashed! I was just so, so, so tired. I really cannot believe that I slept, in the heart of the city.

I think we finally made it to the hotel around 11 pm, New York time; beyond exhausted, but in one piece. Ironically, when we arrived at the hotel, we saw that the Big Apple, country dance event was being held at our hotel. Something that I would have loved to have attended, IF I had the energy!

As I crawled into bed, I had dreams of going into the city, in the morning, and maybe even the dance event in the evening. I wanted to go to Central Park, and to have a cannoli and a piece of pizza, and in my wildest dreams, I wanted to go to a show.

Upon waking to a rainy morning, I quickly realized that my dreams were just that; dreams. There was no way in hell, that I was going anywhere! lol To say that I was "done", was an understatement. We called room service for breakfast, Joe went downstairs to bring up lunch, and I DID manage to make it to the hotel restaurant for dinner, which was a bowl of soup for me.

I felt like crap, and was beyond exhausted, and was a bit bummed that I could see NYC, and that it was our anniversary, and I could not enjoy any of it. I did however console myself with the memories of all that we had done, all of the places we had been and all of the experiences that we had enjoyed.

One more long travel day and we would be home. Home to sleep in our own bed, home to see if the garden was growing and home to recover from the most amazing trip of my lifetime.

Looking back six and a half years ago, to the day that I was diagnosed with leukemia, I never would have dreamed that this trip would have been possible. At that time, I did not know whether I was going to live or die, but I knew, that if I lived, I would find a way to continue to make my dreams come true.

I am blessed, and I plan to continue to dance, and travel my way through leukemia!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Phoenix has Finally CRASHED! But.......

Welp, I think that my prediction of sliding into home plate, in a heap is going to come true! Today is our last day in London, and I had many plans; none of which included spending hours in bed! lol

However, that is exactly what happened; I woke up, got out of bed, ate breakfast, made plans for the day, walked back into the bedroom, to get my clothes, took one look at the bed and I was down for the count! I swear I was only going to lay down for a minute; I think that turned into hours, and as Joe said, "The Phoenix has finally crashed!" lol I don't remember even crawling back into the bed, but I do remember waking up and wondering what the heck had happened; full well knowing that burning the candle on both ends, with chronic mylogenous leukemia, will eventually catch up with you!

Of course,  the first thing that I did was look at the clock and groan; I had "wasted" a good bit of the day, however,  IF I was able to drag myself up and out of the bed, it would be possible to do one thing that was on our list for the day, and that one thing would be to go to Kensington Palace, which is on the other side of Hyde Park, and not far from where we are.

I cannot say that my "nap" made me feel much better, and it was quite a chore to get up and out to Kensington Palace, but as usual, I am so glad that I made the effort. We were fortunate that they had handicap access, which meant I could avoid extra steps and stairs, which was much appreciated today.

As we wandered from room to room, viewing artwork, artifacts, including another awesome doll house, and clothing from ages gone by, I kept marveling at the fact that this is where Princess Diana lived, and raised her boys. Such a strange fact, and hard to envision. These places are so HUGE and museum-like, that it is hard to imagine any one actually "living" here.

can you imagine painting, paintings?

I am sure that their "area" was much different than what we were viewing, but just seems cold and daunting, although the grounds were lovely.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing all of the old costumes, paintings, furniture and decor, but what I enjoyed the most was the tribute to Princess Dianna; they had a room that was filled with many of her iconic outfits. I was amazed at how just seeing those outfits, stirred the memories of seeing her in them. Like I said before, I was a HUGE fan!

I loved the photo they had of her in the room, and all of the quotes on the wall; as  we were leaving, we walked through an area that was covered in a lovely Princess Dianna wallpaper that was done in watercolor portraits, during various stages, in her life.

After leaving the palace, we were able to enjoy the gardens, and eat our lunch under an arbor of green. We enjoyed seeing all of the flowers and gardens that were designed and inspired by the memory of Princess Dianna; as this year, marked 20 years since her tragic death. The garden were so lovely, that you could almost see small boys running through them, playing.

 It wasn't long before they kicked us out; one of the drawbacks of our late start. Reluctantly,  we left the palace area,  I wondered if the palace was open to tourists when they were living here?

With thought stills rambling around in my head, as to what it must have been like to actually "live" in that big huge place, we left the Kensington Palace grounds and walked right  into Hyde Park; all of the parks in London are fabulous, and walking through them is really enjoyable, no matter how tired, or achy you may be.

This stroll was made extra special by running across a children's playground, aptly named the "Dianna, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground"; what I loved best about the playground was the sign that said "No cell Phone us allowed inside play area" meaning, "play" and interact with your children. Brilliant, wouldn't you say? It was a wonderful playground with a huge pirate ship, right smack dab, in the middle of it. A great place for little's to enjoy.

Another magical find was the Elfin Oak; the Elfin Oak is an enchanted, thousand-plus year old, oak stump, that has been transformed into the home of frolicking fairies, elves, gnomes, pixies and even imps! Unfortunately, it has been caged, but I am sure that the cage protects it from the likes of humans, either intentionally, or unintentionally, doing it harm.

After spending a fair amount of time familiarizing myself with all of the "hidden" gems, in the old oak stump, we continued our stroll towards home. We passed a Merry Go Round, which of course, lightened my step and my heart. It turned out to be a lovely day, despite my slow start, but as much as I hated to admit it, I was ready to call it good.

I think that dinner may just have to be desert; what a great way to end our time in London; a tribute to Princess Dianna Day and Gelato for dinner;  London is "in the books"!

Tomorrow we head back to the states; New York City, here we come.

Bricks for the Brave!!