Vacation – Part 6 – The Canal, the Bitch and other happenings.

– First day at sea feeling a little bit better, but still didn’t do too much.  There wasn’t much going on that interested me and I figured the extra rest never hurts.

Observation of the day: What happens in the vortex of the buffet that switches off the civilized part of people’s brains?
No, I mean seriously?  The food isn’t going to run out.  Is it the heat factor?  Making sure to cut people off to get the goods while they’re still warm?  I don’t think that’s it because I had a guy give me the stink eye while I was  waiting for my bagel in front of the dry cereal because there was no where else to go.  Now mind you, I moved right as I saw him coming.  He never had to wait.  It seemed as if it was the prospect of having to wait or ask me to move that made him snarl.  And he sure did snarl at me.
I don’t know.
My theory is they pump some kind of odorless “Lord of the Flies” gas into the room and observe from behind all of the those mirrors circled around the center of the room.

The next morning we passed through the Panama Canal and let me just say that I wouldn’t believe the story I’m about to tell you if it didn’t happen to me myself…

I woke up about 5 in the morning.  Couldn’t sleep.  I was actually feeling better than I had been but was wide awake for some reason.  We had talked at diner the night before about where we were going to watch going through the canal from and heard that one of the lounges boasted one of the best views.  We figured people would be getting up way early to get seats for that though so we figured we’d get up when we do and head there to see what we could.  I figured since I was up, why not head down there and gets us some great seats.
I got there about 5:30 am and there were quite a few people there reserving seats already.  Even more than I had figured.  I decided to save 4 with a table figuring the kids probably wouldn’t stay very long and if they did they could share a chair with one of us.  And to be nice and fair I didn’t even save them all in the front row.  I got 2 in the very front and 2 right behind those. About 10 minutes later 4 women came and took the front four to the left of ours and another woman came and took the two to our right.  By 6am it looked as if every front row seat was being reserved and the second row was starting to fill in as well.
MJ and her parents came to relieve me at about 7:15am.  I went back to the room to take my meds, clean up a bit and grab my camera before heading back up.  They saved one of the front row chairs for me.
We were scheduled to go through the first lock at 8:30am.  I’m not sure what time it actually was, because it seemed like this all started happening not too long after I sat down.
I’ll try to point it out in the pictures, but there was just enough space for leg room between the first set of chairs and the bar that went across the window.

For whatever reason that I still don’t know, there was a couple who thought it would be OK to sit there in front of us.  Didn’t ask or say anything, just came in and sat down right in the line of picture taking.  The downside of having front row seats means no standing up to get shots so I was going to have to shift around in my seat to get shots around the bar.
I said “excuse me” to the gentleman and explained that he was in my way of taking pictures and he said he would just duck or move when I needed him to.  Perhaps this is where I should’ve been more flexible, but I told him no.  That I had been saving the seats for 3 hours and it wasn’t fair for him to just come up there and squat.  Hre wasn’t the nicest about it, but he did finally leave.  I pushed the arm of my chair within a few inches of the chair arm of the lady to my left.  And a few minutes later as I was turned talking to MJ, a woman stepped over the arms of our chairs and sat exactly where the man I asked to move was sitting.
Ugh!  Seriously?
I started to talk to the woman and told her the same thing that I had told the man, but she just told me she was going to stay and then started ignoring me.  Yes, you read that right, a grown woman ignored me like a 7 year old.
I begged and pleaded to her and she wouldn’t say a word.  She wouldn’t even look at us at this point.  The last thing she said was “it was my problem, not hers”.

I don’t know if it was being tired, stunned or just plain hurt at this woman’s incredible rudeness, but I cried.  Just sat there and cried for a bit.  I heard the crazy old bat sigh a few times as if my crying was bothering her.  Good.
After a bit she moved in a way that was now blocking Joe’s view.  MJ leaned over and told the woman that he couldn’t see either and she wouldn’t acknowledge her at all.  I couldn’t take it.  I started to get a little bit loud with her.  I asked her what kind of person she was that she wouldn’t honor the fact that she was in the way of people who had been there long before her and she again looked at me and said it was my problem, not hers and that I should just keep crying.  Just cry.
WHAT?!??  What is the matter with you?!??  I must’ve asked her that at least 5 times.
Awhile later the woman who had also butted in on the floor up there to her left got up.  The woman she was sitting in front of didn’t seem to mind she was there so I asked her if this lady could sit in that spot and she said no problem.  So I asked the beast if she minded moving over 2 feet so.  She looked up at me and said she was fine right where she was.
I lost it.
I told her that not only was she blocking MJ’s 85 year old father, but that I’m a photographer with stage 4 cancer who got there at 5:30 to reserve those seats because it was that important to get good shots.  Yup, I went there.  No, I hadn’t really planned on saving those seats, but there is some truth in that statement plus it was the principle at that point.  All she had to do was move over 2 fucking feet!  Her response to me was “she didn’t care, she wasn’t moving and I should just cry.”  WHO TELLS THAT TO SOMEONE?  I’m pretty sure she’s the coldest person I’ve ever met in my entire life.  How do you get to be that old and not know how to play nice with others in the world?
Needless to say I was pretty shaken.  And I did cry.  It was quite a scene.
About 5 to 10 minutes before we were out of the first lock, the woman to my left decided to leave.  Open seat and the horrible witch wouldn’t take it.  Continued to sit right where she was.  In the next few minutes more seats opened up and she continued to stand her ground.  I don’t know for sure but I suspect she didn’t like that I asked the first guy to move and that’s why she jumped over the arm of the chairs to squat there.  Or she was just so bugged about everything that happened that she was going to have “the last word”.  As sure as shit as soon as I stood up to leave, she left too.  I would not normally wish harm on anyone or anything, but she had to sit in a small cramped space for along time and I really hoped she got the worst case of leg cramps ever.
Sadly ours was not the only squabble in the room that morning.  There were quite a few “down in fronts” that started getting nasty.
I got to see everything going through the first lock and then went and got something to eat.  Back to the buffet routine.  I was beyond annoyed at this point.  I looked around at the behavior of a lot of the old people in there and was just disgusted.  I took my drama ass back to the stateroom.  I was drained emotionally and physically and figured that was the best place for me.  Didn’t even come out for the second lock.  Watched it on TV and took a nap.

I can say one thing for sure that I like about my cancer…  it will either kill me before I get to be that miserable and rotten or I will live that long and have love for everything that old age brings because of it.  I try to do that anyway but I will hopefully have an extra appreciation of what it’s like to be 70.


Vacation – Part 5 – Puntarenas, Costa Rica

The day after Quatemala we had another day at sea and I was rather sick.  I couldn’t break my fever and had chills, sweats and was just exhausted.  This was also my first day to start taking my chemo pills again and all I could do is hope it would get me back on my feet for the rest of the trip.
The only time I left the room all day was to go to the “iLounge” to buy some internet time.  I figured if I was going to be down and out for the day I could at least check in with my warriors for some encouragement.  It was a nice check in, but DAMN is internet on the boat EXPENSIVE!
I did leave the room to have a formal dinner with everyone but started to fall asleep while waiting for the dessert menu.  Needless to say I turned in rather early.

The following morning I started feeling better.  Yay!  Appetite was coming back and I felt like I could enjoy the day.
All 6 of us left the boat this time (4 of us, Mary and MJs dad Joe).  We found a driver and guide right outside the boat to take us to the rainforest.  He had a nice small air conditioned bus that he would take just the 6 of us in for a price that we had expected to pay sharing with a big group of people.  Perfect!  Right as we were getting on the bus there was a couple who had been trying to find a group to go with so we invited them to come with us.  Worked out nice since it didn’t change the price of the bus so we saved a little money and they got to find a group to go with.  Win win.

The first place we stopped was at a park.  Kinda like a state park except this one was full of MONKEYS!  It was amazing.  Of course I’ve seen monkeys before, but I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve seen one in the wild.

Next stop was to the Puntarenas town center which also looks like all of the others I mentioned.  There was a beautiful church on the outskirts.

We drove around the area to see the countryside.  Saw a Howler monkey in a tree by the side of the road. Very green here too.  Beautiful.

The next part of our tour was on the “Crocodile Man Tour  …and Bird watching paradise!!!”  I can honestly say this was the most incredible boat ride I’ve ever been on.
It was a long & flat covered river boat.  Perfect views.
We weren’t on the water very long before the guides pointed out a crocodile.  Just hovering at the surface of the water.  Close enough for a good look and far enough away to not fear for the safety of limbs. Or children.

We saw a bunch of pretty birds all over and then the guide announced there was another crocodile.  He pulled up to shore, pulled some chicken out of a cooler and started heading to the water.  In bare feet.  He started slapping the water with the chicken and the croc headed right for him.  I thought he’d wait until it was close enough to throw it out to it, but ohh nooo…  THIS MF IS CRAZY!  Croc came right up to him and he just about put his fingers in it’s mouth.  I cringe when I see stuff like this on TV, you can’t imagine how nuts it is to see in real life.

He did this with 2 more crocs.  The 3rd croc was HUGE.  Ginormous.  It wasn’t moving when he was slapping the chicken so the guy waded out into the water and opened it’s mouth.  I thought it totally had be fake because there was no way this was really happening!  But it was.  And I have no words to describe it.  You just need to watch the videos.

Sadly, I didn’t realize I left my second camera battery at the ship until we were on the bus.  Luckily I had enough juice to get the incredible shots I did, but my battery died not too long after the croc videos.  I got some pics on my iPhone but obviously not great ones.

Our last stop was driving through the rainforest.  He stopped once so we could walk a small trail and across a suspension bridge.  We didn’t see too much wild life.  One of the coolest things we got to see was a huge trail of leaf cutter ants.

We decided to skip dinner in the dining room that night and went for the buffet.  I had a salad, sushi and pizza.  Why didn’t we do this before?!??

It was a great finish to an amazing day.

Vacation – Part 4 – Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala

All the resting seemed to pay off and I felt much better for our day in Guatemala. We got in with a tour who took us to Antigua.  Oh, and let me just say that we paid less than ½ for a very similar tour that was offered through the cruise line.  We’d been debating for weeks before leaving if we should book an excursion but it seemed to pay off to not have.

Our first stop was in a Mayan village where we sampled home made tortillas and saw a very small coffee plantation.  There was a beautiful view on the top of the building.
Everything very green and beautiful.

From there we went on to the Hotel Casa Santo Domingo in Antigua.  Very old hotel.  I didn’t really follow what the tour guide was saying about it.  Partly because I couldn’t understand or hear and partly because I was kinda tired.  I think she mentioned something about they filmed a movie there.  There was also a lot of beautiful art work.

Our next stop was at a marketplace in Antigua.  They were all very vocal as we walked through.  “Hey, Lady whatcho you need?” or “Lady, lady very good price for you today”.  It got a little overwhelming.  I did buy a blanket though.  I’ll have to take a picture of it.

Last stop was in the town square of Antigua.  The center square as I mentioned before was in the same style as so many other Mexican cities.
Overall it was a nice little tour.  In the middle of these stops she took us to a chocolate factory, a candle factory and a jade place.

Once again though, I wasn’t feeling so well by the end of the evening.  I really don’t want to miss these great places to see but I do have to be careful of overdoing it.



Vacation – Part 3 – Two Days at Sea

It was no surprised after 2 pretty full days in a row that I was quite ill on the first of the 2 sea days.  The same stuff that’s been a problem, just started getting worse.  Fevers, chills, sweats.  I knew I was in a bad way when I’m on a cruise ship and didn’t really feel like eating.
So I pretty much rested all day.  Watched a bit of TV, but mostly slept and tried to get through the night without having to see the ship’s doctor at a $100 a pop.  I’m supposed to go no matter what if I get above 103 and I managed to stay below it.

Second day I started feeling a bit better but still took it easy most of the day.  I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t put myself in a position to have to miss a port day.

Kian wanted to take “the galley tour” which sounded interesting to me as well so we decided to check that out. We went a little early and was still towards the end of almost 600 people. They gave numbers to everyone breaking them up to take smaller groups through.  They ran out of numbers and told us they would still get us in but it would be a wait.  During the wait the head chef and some other official type guy did a Q&A session.  After along time waiting, the one guy tells us how surprised he was at the size of the tour since they would be doing another one at a later day.  Um, what?!??  That would’ve been really great information TWO HOURS ago.  Jerk.  Oh well.  It was still neat to see.

I did feel well enough in the afternoon to take a swing dance class with MJ.  We took dance classes prior to our wedding so we did pretty well.  And I even had fun 😀

We went to the nightly show as well and saw a hilarious magician.  Kian even liked the show.


Vacation – Part 2 – Puerto Vallarta

There was a last minute change in the itinerary that I’m pretty grateful for.
We were supposed to have 1 day at sea after Cabo and stop in Acapulco the following day.  Instead we stopped in Puerto Vallarta the day after Cabo and then had 2 days at sea skipping Acapulco.  Not sure the reason behind it, but I loved Puerto Vallarta.  MJ’s been to Acapulco before and said she really liked Puerto Vallarta much better.

Once we got off the ship we decided to be adventurous!  Not like all the other Americans who had shore excursions booked through the cruise line or all the other ones who hired drivers.  Oh no.  We decided to take the city bus!  Had MJ not spoke Spanish, I doubt I would’ve done it, but we made it to where we wanted to go.  In one piece.  The only gringos on there.

We got off at the malecón (Spanish for boardwalk).  We didn’t walk too far before we ran into a man who was trying to sell parasailing trips.  Whoo hoo! I was interested. Nalani was too, but only if she could go with someone.  We saw some of those in Cabo so we knew it was possible but this particular operation didn’t have that option available.  We haggled for a little bit with price and then he said the kids could go up with an instructor.  SOLD!
…did I mention it was Friday the 13th?

We headed over to the beach where we were going to launch from and they started suiting Nalani up.  That is when we were told they didn’t have a way for them to go up with an instructor and the guy who sold us the tickets was long gone.  Both kids immediately refused to go.  I was so bummed because I didn’t want everyone to have to hang around just for me.  But very surprisingly within a few minutes Nalani decided to do it!  I couldn’t believe it.  She was already strapped up so within a few minutes she was up in the air!  I must admit it was a bit nerve wracking watching her float off into the air but she LOVED it.

Kian was still a little hesitant about going but finally decided to.  He didn’t have quite the same experience.  I think he enjoyed it OK, but doubt he would ever do it again.

 This is something I’ve always wanted to do this so I was pretty excited.  Not really nervous.  Perhaps I should’ve been since this was not your typical American “sign this wavier and make sure all the safety gear checks out” kinda place.  Really all I was thinking about was being sick the night before and “SCREW YOU CANCER, this is MY day today and I’m going to do something AWESOME”
It was pretty amazing.  I didn’t quite sit back on the harness enough as I went up so there were a few moments where I felt like I was going to plummet 100 feet to the ocean, but I really didn’t care.  It was so peaceful. Almost like a hot air balloon ride.  Loved it.

After we walked the boardwalk for a bit.  Wished we had more time to check everything out.  Very nice walk though.

I wish I had gotten better pictures of the bus we caught to go back to the boat.  More worn down than the first, busted out windshield and it appeared that the driver only had one eye.  I’m not even sure because they were so jacked up.  Drive and bus reflected each other nicely.  And if that information isn’t scary enough, not only do they drive VERY close to each other there, it’s a kinda free for all at intersections that don’t have signals.  Terrifying and thrilling all at the same time!



Vacation – Part 1 – Sea Day & Cabo

We made it on the boat!

Once we settled into our cabin we had dinner.  We watched the first night show and got acquainted with the boat so it won’t take 3 days to figure out where everything is.  Took the kids up to the “Fun Factory” .  They are enrolled in this for the entire trip which I admit I was pretty stoked about.  The room is very small and they can get all sorts of wound up so I thought this was a pretty good solution for us and them.

Our first day was at sea.  MJ and I decided to check out the “Music Trivia: 80s Music”.  Why not, right?  And, we won.  That’s right. Took down all of the 70 year old bitches who thought they could mess with us!   There was one other team that was close to our age who missed 2.  We only missed 1.  Won us some pens!  Jealous?
Not knowing how to spend the day after our big win, MJ and I checked out the hot tubs in the afternoon while the kids spent the whole day in the fun factory.  Lounged, ate and watched the night show.  Very relaxing day.

The one thing I noticed is the average age seems to be quite old.  There are only 17 kids on the ship under the age of 17.  And there doesn’t seem to be very many people my age even.  I figured though with my colostomy and the fact that I was nodding off during the evening show I fit right in.

I started not feeling so well the second night.  Night sweats again and had a mild fever.  I’m guessing that all the crap food I’ve been eating hasn’t helped, but I think it’s mainly due to being off the chemo pills right now.  This was happening before I started chemo and stopped as soon as I started.  I’ll be off the pills for 3 more days.  Hopefully I won’t get too sick in the mean time.

The following day was our first port stop Cabo San Lucas.  It was our only stop where we had to tender to shore.  Luckily we didn’t have big plans because we got tickets for one of the last boats over.

Once we got there we talked to a local tourist info who helped put us in touch with a place that would take us snorkeling.  Well, it was basically a guy who has a small rickety glass bottom boat.  He agreed to just take the 5 of us (MJ’s mom, Mary + the 4 of us).
He took us to a less populated beach that was really nice.

The water was COLD.  MJ got in first and then Kian and Mary.  Nalani tried getting in and cried because it was too cold.  That was my first tip off…  when the 7 year old is crying over the temperature, there’s no way that it could be remotely warm enough for me. I put my feet over the edge and Dipped my feet in.  YIKES.  Yeah, not so much warm at all.  I decided I didn’t want to get in.  But of course they were all trying to coax me in saying it wasn’t that cold once you got “used to it”.
It took about 10 minutes of prodding until I finally jumped in.  I still suspect there may have been some pushing involved.  It was the coldest water I’ve ever felt in my life.  I tried to enjoy the snorkeling but I was having trouble even catching my breath.  MJ was so sweet swimming with me and pointing out all of the fish trying to make it an enjoyable time.  I think I was in the water a total of 5 minutes before I couldn’t take it anymore and got back on the boat.  I was really surprised that I couldn’t make it but MJ was OK.  She usually gets way more cold before I do.  Found out later that I likely had a fever during the time we were out.  I took my temp as soon as we got back and it was a bit high.

We enjoyed a boat ride around the arch and walked around the shore a bit before heading back to our ship.

It was a great day but boy was I tired.  Watched a comedian that night and I started nodding off again.  Even the old people were showing me up.

More photos:

One Down, Let’s Take a Trip!

I finished my first round of chemo today.  Nothing new from the check in last week so I would say the whole first round was (thankfully) relatively uneventful.  I now have a week off from all of it and will start taking the pills again in a week while were on the cruise.  The pills didn’t seem to have too much of an effect on me so I should be fine for the trip.  I have plenty of nausea medication.  Worst thing is if I start to feel bad I just wrap myself up and plant myself on the deck.  Not a bad way to be sick if I’m going to be.

We had a wonderful Easter.  We decorated eggs on Saturday.  That’s always a fun mess.

And on Sunday morning the kids got up at the crack of dawn to find all of the filled plastic eggs and their baskets that the Easter Bunny left.
Last summer when we were in Michigan for my sister’s wedding, the kids tried Combos for the first time ever.  They’re pretzels filled with fake spreadable cheese for those of you who’ve never had them before.  We got some to fill some of the plastic eggs with.  The kids opened them and said “Hey! These eggs have Michigan pretzels in them!”.  And so Combos shall forever be known by our children as “Michigan pretzels”.

After the hunt we went to church for a uplifting Easter service and had a restful afternoon.  Well, I did since I was having some shoulder pain.  Poor MJ had to take care of stuff.  And me.  She needs this trip more than anyone right now.

And so speaking of the trip, we leave tomorrow!  We are all very excited.  I’m not sure why but it hasn’t really hit me yet.  I think because I didn’t want to get my hopes up for so long until we were in the clear from the doc.  And now that we are I guess it just hasn’t sunk in.  Everyone is all packed and ready to go.  Except for me, of course.  I always wait until the last minute.  Plus, I have to go to an unexpected Drs appointment in the morning now.  I had some bleeding around the ostomy I need to get checked out.  Of course it stopped now, but better safe than sorry.
Plus I have strings hanging out of my long incision.
Did you just say, “wait, what?”   Cause that’s what I said when I saw them come out of me.

I noticed a bump at the top of my incision since the surgery but thought it was just skin healing awkward. Last night It was very itchy and I couldn’t resist giving it a good scratch.  That’s when I noticed it starting to come unraveled.  And now I have these 2 white strings sticking out of my belly.  Weird, huh?
Figured I’d have the doc check those out too.

And then were off!  We get to the port at 1pm and the boat leaves at 4.
Our first stop will be Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  Then onto Acapulco, Mexico; Puerto Quetzal, Guatamala and Puntarenas, Costa Rica. We cruise through the Panama Canal and then we stop in Colon, Panama and Cartagena, Columbia before heading back to the US ending in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  We’ll fly home from there.

Interesting note – The 100 year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic is April 15th at 02:20 GMT.  We will be out at sea during that time.  Interesting place to be I thought.  I wonder if they’ll mention it.

I have no idea if we will have any internet connection in the next 2 weeks.  I doubt it since I won’t want to pay for it.  I do know that our ship has the first Authorized Apple Reseller at Sea.  So it is possible they might have some free wi-fi.  We’ll see.
If you don’t hear from me for the next 2 weeks?  I didn’t find free connection.
If I don’t get the chance to update while were there, I’ll fill you all in when I get back!




First week of chemo

It’s been a week since my infusion and starting taking pills.
The first 3 days I was completely exhausted.  I would wake up to eat and go to the bathroom and that was about it.  I would try to watch a TV show and just nod off.  Every day gets better though.  The last 2 days I’ve felt back to my normal energy level.
The cold sensitivity in my hands and feet come and go and it’s tolerable.
I’ve had to take my nausea medicine only a few times and it was more as a preventative measure. I haven’t really felt “ill” at all.
So overall things have been rather uneventful.  Which is great!  I have heard that the first round is usually the easiest.  That the 3rd and 4th rounds are where the side effects really kick in.  I guess we’ll see.  I’m optimistic that it won’t get too horrible.

Chemo was confusing going into it and I imagine is confusing for some of you, so here’s how mine works…

Part 1 is where I go to the hospital and have drugs injected through IV.
While I was in the hospital after my surgery, they installed a port into my chest.

This is the scar.  There’s a little lump there where you can feel it.  If this really interests you, you can check out this website  – Implantable ports.  This explains how it all works.
So that’s where they stick the IV in.

Part 2 is I take 3 pills in the morning and 3 in the evening every day for 2 weeks.
That’s it.  These are chemo pills.

 And then I have a week off.

Everyone has a different regiment.  And mine may change if this one doesn’t seem to work.  The other one I could end up doing would require me wearing a pump for 2 days.  I’m kinda hoping to not have to do that one.

So that’s it.  It’s actually kinda boring.  haha
Day by day I’m trying to get back to my normal routine and life.  It’s still hard to plan to do things not knowing how I will feel.  We are still planning on leaving for our trip in a week and I plan to really get a routine going when we get back.  Look at getting into exercise classes and other things to get me feeling like I’m not “homebound sick”.
Don’t need a crazy Heather at home 😛