Fox and Broom

A mom's adventures in keeping healthy, keeping her sanity, and making stuff.

Archive for the tag “Travel”

Changes

It has been a really long time since my last update. My world has been full of lots of changes since my October posting. Some good, some not so good, some heartbreaking.

I started a new treatment called Xeloda in October (or maybe September). This has been one of my favorite treatments so far. I feel so much more normal than I have in the two and half years since I started treatments. It does have a side effect called Hand Foot Syndrome. It dries out the skin on the hands and feet and can cause cracking and sore appendages. I had to have my dose lowered due to having trouble walking. My feet had developed very dark markings. I had thought they were bruises because they were aching so badly. The pain only last three days, but the marks remained. I found out later that the darkening is a common thing among people using Xeloda. I saw it was mostly hands and fingers, but feet are in there also.

One of the funny side effects of Xeloda is that it promotes hair growth. My hair is definitely not long, by any means, but it has been growing much quicker than it ever has in the past. It seems to be a little thicker. I thought that was in my head, but my stylist agreed with me when I had her shape my hair a little. I had a natural fauxhawk going on for me that I didn’t much mind, but my the hair in the back was starting to look more like a mullet. Sorry to the mullet-lovers, but the look doesn’t suit me. My hair has gotten longish enough that it now lays down a bit better. I kinda miss my hawk. I got a few compliments on it from random strangers.

No matter how much I like Xeloda, nothing lasts forever. Especially with my treatments. I will be moving on to a new treatment by the end of this month. My scans have been showing as stable, even showing a bit of regression on my bone scan, but my CA 27.29 (cancer antigen marker) has been moving slowly higher. It is still much, much, much lower than it was at this time last year, but it is starting to concern my oncologist. Sometimes, there is action going on in the marrow of the bones that the scans can not see.

Another big change was moving. We sold our house and purchased a much larger house with my in-laws. Much larger. It is twice the size of my old house. I know it seems weird to move in with the parents, but it is a mutually beneficial move. They are not getting younger and my disease will never go away. In this way, we can take care of each other. Our new house has three levels. Three of my boys live on the top level, the grandparents are on the main level, and Gabriel, Max, the dogs, and I live in the basement. It’s a really nice basement. We have access to the backyard and a very lovely patio. Our area is closed off from the main level, allowing a bit of privacy. Nothing is totally private with four kids. I have my own laundry room and a coffee/tea table. The new schools are very nice. I kept Eldest at his old school as it is his last year there before high school.

Some of the changes have been sad. Last summer, I found out that my personal trainer had passed away. Mike was one of those people who makes your life brighter. I hired him because he had just finished treatment for leukemia and I had just gotten over most of the sickness from my pregnancy and birth of Max. I figured he would understand getting over an illness. Mike helped me find my strength and empowerment again. Even after my training sessions were done, we kept in contact and would visit at the gym. He was one of the first people I talked to when I got my diagnosis. I went through the dark time and when I was able to move again, I went back to the gym to get my legs and arms working better. He would take me aside and pray with me. I also did the same for him, but I didn’t tell him that. Last year, he had started to look sick. He didn’t talk to me about it, but I saw it. The last time we chatted was when I ran into him at the Cancer Center after my final round of radiation on my right eye orbital. I found out he passed away about a week later. Fuck cancer.

One of my best friends lost her mother to brain cancer. She was diagnosed last summer and passed in January. It was so aggressive and fast. It honestly scared me at how quickly it took her. Fuck cancer.

On March 5, I found out that Bekah passed. She was the person I had termed (in my head) as The Other MBCer in town. She was too young. She was kind and motivated. She was inspiring. Fuck cancer into infinity. Her husband wants to set up an MBC Foundation in her name for local people and eventually have it reach people across the state. Her GoFundMe is still collecting if you want to help with her funeral costs and to help him attain the funds for the Foundation.

On a more positive note, I have a lot of adventures planned for the rest of this year. Gabriel and I will be going to Greece in less than a week. We had a little bit leftover from our house sale and threw a mental dart at a world map.

Two weeks after we get back, I will be taking Sam to Orlando to experience Disney World and Universal Studios. I have been saving up for this trip for two years. As of right now, he has no idea we are leaving. He only knows that he has an “appointment” during Spring Break. He asked if he was going to have to have shots or a blood draw. I said yes to both because I am an evil mother.

My sister, Danielle, will be coming to visit me in May. I am super excited about that. I am trying to plan a trip to her area this summer.

We also have camping and family outings in the works.

Before I end this blog, I had an unbelievable change happen in January. Sam’s whole exome genome testing was finally approved by my insurance company. I have been fighting for this test for about four years. I understand that the insurance company is reluctant to approve this type of testing due to the lowish findings rate (30 – 40%), but I am at the end of my options. Our next step would be a muscle biopsy, which is twice as expensive and way more invasive. For those not in the know, Sam was born with a congenital muscular disease. For Sam, it means that he gets tired more quickly and isn’t as strong as his peers. For us, it is constantly worrying about his weight, his social interactions, working on his gross motor skills. He is currently in physical therapy and is testing out as around a 5 to 6 year old in physical skills (he is 8 right now). I am hoping for a diagnosis that can let us know if there is anything more we can do to help boost him up. His DNA was already on file and he did not have to add anything more to it. Gabriel and I flew to Seattle to put our DNA into the batch. Whole exome means that the parents are involved and it will look into our separate genetic lines for answers. Please cross your fingers for us that this will lead to something. We will get answers in three to four months.

One final thing. Of all the things I have learned this year, the hardest and the best thing is to not put off your dreams. Some dreams are expensive, but dammit save your pennies for it. Some dreams need a little extra time. Make time. Don’t put off what makes you happy.

And again, fuck cancer.

Paris Part V: L’Arc de Triomphe (and some chemo stuff)

I am trying out something new today. I am writing on my blog using my tablet with an attached keyboard. This blog was actually the reason for the keyboard, but it has come in handy for emails and other things that require typing.

I am also starting this post while away from home. I am currently getting prepped to have my 4th chemotherapy.

Hi! I am wearing my Esprit shirt that I got in Paris.

And some pictures of my poisons. The red syringe is Adriamycin. The nurse pushes that in manually to make sure my blood return is good. This ensures that an IV needle hasn’t moved. I am using my port, so the needle moving is a moot point, but it is policy and I am fine with my nurses making sure the poison is going where it is supposed to go.

The top IV bag is filled with Cytotoxen. This bag will take at least an hour to empty. The bottom bag is saline.

Now on to the more fun stuff. Our visit to The Arch of Triumph.

May 24, 2017 L’Arc de Triomphe

Our day started with breakfast at Le Comptoir de l’Europe and a surprise for Gabriel.

Our friend, Jessie, is a flight attendant and was able to make time to visit us in Paris. We had not seen her in forever. It is kind of funny that it was easier to meet up with her in France than in the US. Our breakfast was so very good. I was still having issues with eating and I ate both eggs, the baguettes, and most of the other stuff put in front of me. I will forever believe that Paris healed my cancer-induced anorexia. J’adore Paris.

After breakfast, Jessie took a nap and we went off to do laundry. Our ticket for L’Arc was set for a few hours later. I tried to figure out how to ask where the laundromat was. I think my French translator has a snarky streak. See my Eiffel Tower post for another example.

As we walked to the nearest laundrette, we saw a wedding procession. I only got one good picture of a car as they came past the laundromat. They were decorated with beautiful bouquets.

We sat in a decent café across the street while our laundry washed and dried.

They sold hand-made sausages.

We had enough time to meander/get lost on our way back to the hotel. I took a few pictures of the church and some other buildings that caught my eye.

As always, there was music in the Metro tunnels. Paris really spoiled me with music playing everywhere.

The Arch is impressive. As it was meant to be. Napoleon had commissioned it after a victory and it was completed in 1836.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The view from the top was breathtaking. Gabriel and I are in agreement that we preferred this view to the one from the Eiffel Tower. However, I still enjoyed our Eiffel Tower visit.

Here is a picture of the crazy traffic in Paris.

And my favorite picture of Gabriel and me.

There was a display of various parts of statues that were not used on the outside of the Arc once it was completed. My favorite is Alexander the Great. I think he looks offended. I also like his little head dragon.

I guess I was looking sickly that day. The guard checking us in had us use the lift rather than the stairs. Honestly, I was grateful. We had a lot of walking planned for the day. I did take the spiral stairs down. I was dizzy by the time I got to the bottom. I wasn’t the only one. More than a few people had to stop partway to get their bearings.

When we got to the bottom, we discovered a memorial service was starting. We stayed for a bit, but we felt it was something personal and did not want to intrude.

Something that I haven’t really mentioned was the military presence in Paris. It was unnerving at first, but I got used to seeing these young men.

We wandered along Champs-Elysees and window shopped all the stores from which we couldn’t afford a tissue. We also paid our respects at the memorial to the three officers who were killed on April 20, 2017.

We meandered around the area and found a café. The waiter was a grumpy old man. I liked him. He did soften up to us after a crazy woman from Brazil sat down near us. We were not as demanding or as nuts as she was. When we paid up, he very sternly reminded us that he did not want a tip.

A note on tipping:

I am not sure about other countries, but in France, it is considered an insult to leave a tip. The wait staff are paid very well and do not need extra money to make a livable wage. Mind blowing.

We also had dinner near the Champs-Elysees. I really enjoyed my food, but the wait staff were not so friendly and refused our cards. Luckily, we had enough Euros between the three of us to pay for dinner.

We walked back to our hotel rather than take the Metro. I took pictures of shoes because I really love shoes.

And this old taxi.

And, finally, this is some artwork that we saw almost everyday. It is in a busy square that has a Metro, train station, grocery store, and mall. During the day, it is always filled with people and food carts.

It was a good day.

Paris Part IV: La Tour Eiffel

If you go to Paris, you almost have to visit the iconic building that is used to symbolize not just the city, but the country of France. For the big tourist attractions, such as The Eiffel Tower, I highly recommend purchasing tour guide tickets well ahead of time. I used Viator to look up events and tickets. With a tour guide for the Eiffel Tower, you get around the crowd and head right on up.

May 23, 2017

We started our day with the most amazing pastries and, of course, caffe. My pastry was a flaky, delicate, almond thing. It just kind of melts in your mouth. I wish I had taken a picture of what it is called. I still fondly think of this pastry. Gabriel had an eclair and something that seemed to be a doughnut cupcake.

Gabriel had injured himself the day before. Which I am sure will surprise anyone who knows him. He is allergic to band aids, so we usually use gauze and medical tape for his wounds. We stopped at the pharmacy on our way to the metro to see about getting tape and gauze. We tried to explain to the cashier what we were looking for and she was very confused. She also seemed slightly offended. In the end, she found an amazing solution for Gabriel. It is a sort of band aid spray called Urgo. It was exactly what he needed. I also figured out why the cashier seemed a little offended. The word “tape” is a little different in French.

Our transit to the Eiffel Tower was a double-decker. I thought this was pretty neat. The seats were very comfortable and it was mostly empty.

We arrived a few hours early for our tour, so we decided to explore a little. We walked across the river and wandered around an area that had some pretty little shady parks and seemed to be the home to foreign embassies. 

I can not express how hard it was for me to get up these stairs. But I did it.

I find Paris graffiti beautiful.

Athena in a park.

We had a snack at the Paris Museum of Modern Art. The outside eating area was beautiful.

This was right next to the Museum of Modern Art. I believe it was part of the Palais de Tokyo.

Chichis. Which are sort of like churros.

Now we are back at the Tower. We are waiting outside for our tour (not realizing the tour starts about two blocks away). While we were waiting, some scammers tried to engage us. We pretended not to understand, but they would not leave us alone. I found out after we walked away (when I realized our meeting spot was elsewhere) that someone had attempted to get into my backpack. I had tied up it pretty good and am glad that I did so.

This is our very kind and sweet guide.

The lifts are almost like a really crowded, slow roller coaster.

When we got to the second level, the guide gave us a brief history on the Tower and explained the different colors the Tower had been. It has been repainted every 7 years. There are discussions going on now about what color the next one will be.

We went around the second level and took a few pictures.

It was incredibly crowded. We went up to the top level and took more pictures. I love the “secret office” of Monsieur Eiffel. The champagne bar was also a fun touch.

The buildings were so small at this height that Paris almost looked like a model of a city.

 

After our visit to la tour Eiffel, we meandered back towards our hotel. If I recall correctly, our trip back was not nearly as comfortable. It was the end of the work day and all the trains and metros were packed. I almost did not get off at our stop; I was crushed against a pole.

We ended the day eating something amazing and I had my new favorite drink.

Paris Part II: Le Louvre

I took most of my 700 pictures at Le Louvre. I have had a lot of trouble deciding how many and which ones to share. I love art museums and The Louvre has a special place in my heart. It not only displays artworks, but it is itself a work of art. We spent three days of our trip exploring the museum and we still didn’t see everything. So, this post is mostly just going to be a ton of pictures.

Day 1: Saturday May 20

We took a lot of time browsing through Greek statues and le Pavillon de l’Horloge.

 

Day 2: Sunday May 21

Sundays seem to be a day filled with music in Paris. There is always music, but there was a lot more music on Sunday than on the other days. We kept the window open in our hotel room while we slept and we were woken up by piano music. Music echoed throughout the Metro halls as we made our way to the museum. Once we got to le Louvre, there was a huge group of people dancing in a courtyard across from the museum. We bought crepes at a vendor and watched them dance. I got some pictures of them from one of the Louvre windows on the second floor.

This photo was taken a couple of hours after we had first seen them. There were about three times as many people when we had first gotten to this area.

There were also mimes at the Louvre when we got there. Fucking clowns.

The caffè was delicious, then we started on our second day.

Our third day at the Louvre was a few days after the first two. I decided to just put our Louvre visits on one post.

Day 3: Thursday May 25

A couple of days before, I had surprised Gabriel with a secret meetup with an old friend. Jessica had been to Paris many times, but had never gone to the Louvre. Or L’Arc de Triomphe. Or many other very touristy places. We had a lot of fun dragging her around with us.

Music on the Metro.

A young artist sketching. It made my heart happy to see this boy so involved in his artwork.

Probably my favorite selfie.

MySpace-style picture with an extremely antique mirror.

I have an obsession with teapots. I love them.

Marie Antoinette surrounded herself with very strange things. This dog was one of the items she kept in her rooms.

Obligatory viewing of the Mona Lisa.

 

These pictures were among my favorites. It was really difficult to figure out which ones to use. I have taken my time in going through them. It makes me happy to revisit this trip. I may have extended this blog post just because I really have enjoyed looking through these pictures over and over.

The Gift

It all started on Christmas. Well, maybe before that. For me, it started on Christmas Eve at my in-laws. We had gone over to celebrate, have dinner, and exchange gifts. I was given a beautiful, small, gold box. The bow was perfect. Bobi really does the most wonderful bows on gifts. I like to use her bows as decorations on my tree. It means I get new decorations every year.

I opened the box and the first thing I see is a small card that says “I love Paris.” I started tearing up. I had an idea as to what might be under that card. It was two small airline tickets. My in-laws had given me their airline mileage to be able to visit Paris with my husband. I ugly cried.

I have wanted to travel to France with Gabriel for forever. I kept trying to save up for this trip, but, well, life happens. Along with the kindness of the tickets, both sets of in-laws made out a schedule for keeping my boys. We ultimately decided to go in May as the June flights were double the mileage cost (and double to triple the hotel costs). We also received a surprise gift of travel money from Gabriel’s coworkers. If any of them are reading this, thank you so very much. The money covered our hotel expenses and allowed us to buy gifts for the boys and enjoy the Parisian food and sights.

I spent five months working on DuoLingo to learn French or at least enough to get by. Turns out that I didn’t use it as much as I really kind of wanted to. I did use it a little and it was fun to be able to communicate a little better. I also understood someone who was talking about my mispronunciation of a place. I butchered Montmartre. I knew it and I practiced saying it while at breakfast. The woman across from us said something in French to her friend that basically translated to, “She needs to learn to speak correctly.” Yes, I know I do. Which I was trying to do. It amused me that I was able to pick up on what she was saying. I guess I had learned more than I thought I had.

I also ordered two months of News In Slow French. I’m actually considering just subscribing to that for a year. Or more. It has a lot more international news than my local news media outlets give me.

My trip was huge and I want to document as much as I can, so I am writing a separate post for each day with lots of pictures. I won’t be able to actually post all of them. I took over 700 pictures. A good number of photos will be in each post.

 

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