Day 31, November 14: Dr. Roberto Salvatori and Johns Hopkins. I found Dr Salvatori to be wonderfully kind, interested and knowledgeable. He listened thoughtfully to my complaints and never suggested that I was simply “fat and depressed”. In the first visit, I learned things about my diagnosis that my previous endo had completely skipped. I feel confident that he will take care of any future endocrine issues. It didn’t hurt that he was showing my website and bio around to other staff when I went for an appointment!
Day 32, November 15: Facebook. What can I say? FB has brought me closer to people I might not have otherwise known.
Day 33, November 16: Bells. I love playing handbells. Nearly any bells but I really like the lower octave, the G3-B3 area.I’m not so good with 4-in-hand or shelley ringing. For more info about handbell techniques, there’s a good article here.
Day 34, November 17: Computers. When the first computer came into this house I wasn’t a happy camper. It cost far too much and I couldn’t see any value in it at all. There was a tiny grey/yellow monitor, no hard drive. What good can come of this?
Things changed a bit over the years!
Day 35, November 18: Today is the first annversary of my one and only zipline experience. I’ve been thinking about since my kidney cancer surgery 3 years earlier. Since then, I figure I have “extra years” and I wanted to do something kinda scary, yet fun. So, somehow, I decided on ziplining.
What I wrote then:
Day Four, November 18, 2009: Belize City, Honduras
Belize Enjoy two of the most exciting tours offered in Belize today, cave tubing and the canopy zip line excursions on your one day visit to Belize!
Your Zip Line adventure begins from the First Platform where you will “jump” from the first Platform to zip to the next Platform found 150ft away. Flying through the air surrounded by nature is the most exhilarating feeling ever encountered, the birds and Howler Monkeys found onsite will be at eye level making you one with the prolific nature Belize is famous for.
The Zip Line Adventure consists of 8 Zip Line Platforms each strategically located within the Rainforest canopy. Double cables (each capable of withstanding 2,000 pounds of weight, the requirement for this tour truly has nothing to do with weight but with the size of the safety equipment) are used for the ultimate safety. All landing Platforms are equipped with safety gear, handrails and Guides to meet your next landing as well as to ensure your personal safety throughout the tour. The Platforms are as high as 85ft into the Canopy and as far apart as 250ft!
On the second part of your exciting excursion you will then reach the Cave Branch System Welcome Area where you will be fitted with your life vest, (if you would like one) cave lamp and your tube.
The walk to the beginning of the first Cave Entrance is an easy gentle 30 to 40 minute stroll through the beautiful Belizean Rainforest. Your guide will take you through two dry caves where many stalagmites and stalactites can be admired along the way. Once we have reached our access point for your Cave Tubing adventure, you will be able to enter the crystal clear, refreshing river and enter the first cave. A picture of the first cave can be seen on our website but unfortunately the picture does not do the area justice as the cave entrance and color of the water is simply spectacular!
You will visit 1 full underground cave system (2 caves) within the Cave Branch System, you will also be guided to underground dry caves within the cave system, a treat only offered by our outfit, X-Stream Cave Tubing! As you approach the end of your cave tubing experience you will float through small fun rapids where you will pickup some speed and end the cave tubing ride in style, bringing you right back to the starting point of your Cave Tubing adventure. Tropical Fruits are offered following your excursion.
If a picture is worth a thousand words the following pictures should give you a great description of both tours.
Trekking in the Belizean Rain Forest, an easy 30 minute walk with your tube cave tubing entrance
Walking through a cave on the way to the river for the cave tubing
In the Rain Forest, an easy 30 minute walk with your tube to the river tubing entrance
Off we go on our Xtreme Cave Tubing Adventure
Regular Cave-Tubing entry and our guides assist you if you need help
Floating through the Belizean underworld
Exploring the cave system and various formations by the glow of the cave lights (head lights?)
The famous cave wave
The short walk through the rainforest to reach the first platform.
The Guides instruct the Zip method and explain the cables, platforms and itinerary. You can see the double cables.
Getting ready for the first jump to the first platform 85ft in the air!
Zip lining away!!!!
One of the many platforms found high in the canopy
At the end of the Zip Line Excursion you will repel from the last platform back down to Earth.
Easy does it. This is the experience of a lifetime!
Up and at ‘em early this morning.
This is finally the zipline day I’ve been thinking about since my kidney cancer surgery 3 years ago. Since then, I figure I have “extra years” and I wanted to do something kinda scary, yet fun. So, somehow, I decided on ziplining. Tom wouldn’t go with me but Michael would so I set this up almost as soon as we booked this cruise.
Our tour left first so after breakfast, Michael and I got on the tender for Belize. Tom’s tender was about 45 minutes later. Even though the tender went zipping along, it was about 20 minutes to shore.
We got on our bus with about 30 other brave and not-so-brave folks and our guide, Eddie, told us a bit about Belize City, Belize in general and what to expect on our tour.
Belize City used to be the capital of British Honduras (as Belize was formerly named) but it’s 2 feet below sea level and prone to hurricanes so the capital was moved to the other city – Belmopan in 1970. It was almost entirely destroyed in 1961 when Hurricane Hattie swept ashore on October 31.
Because of the altitude, graves are all above ground.
The main languages are English (the official language), Spanish and Kriol. Eddie said the kids learned English in school but, as soon as they were out, it was back to the Kriol. They wear uniforms to school.
Bordering on Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean, Belize is the second smallest country in Central America (after El Salvador), with an area of approximately 9,000 square miles that includes numerous small islands off the coast known as cayes.
More than half of the mainland is covered with dense forests, and at its longest point Belize is 174 miles long while its greatest width is 68 miles. Long a strong advocate of environmental protection, the government has set aside approximately 20% of its land as nature reserves.
There are also several important Mayan sites situated on the mainland such as Altun Ha and Xunantunich that make for excellent day trips and are included on shore excursions by most cruise ships. As a matter of fact, Belize has the highest concentration of Mayan sites of all the countries in Central America.
Eddie tried to tell us that our tour would be scary – but FUN, it would be hard – but FUN. He himself had done the zipline only once, because he had to for this job. He said that the caves might have things brushing up against us but they would be leaves and twigs. The caves might have “log-gators” in them, too.
We travelled along the 37-mile drive along the Western Highway – the scenery changed from city to suburbs, to a settlement called Hattieville where hurricane survivors met to life after the country was destroyed, to the beginnings of the rain forest.
We turned down a road to a jaguar preserve – yes, they have them here! then, finally, to our destination, Caves Branch National Park.
Eddie handed out water (which we had to leave on the bus). A bathroom break, then off to the zipline area.
Each person had a harness around their legs with attached pulleys and carabiners. Women had them on their chests as well. In addition, we had leather construction gloves and hard hats.
We climbed to the top of the first platform and were given brief instructions and off we went. Because of the heavy gloves, I couldn’t get any pictures. I had thought that they would take some of us on the hardest line to sell to us later but they didn’t. They also didn’t have cave pictures or T-Shirts. What a missed opportunity!
This was so cool, so much fun. I thought I might be afraid at first but I wasn’t. I just followed instructions and went.
Sometimes they told us to break. We did that with the right hand, which was always on the upper cable.
After the second line, I must have braked too soon because I stopped before I got to the platform. Michael was headed toward me. The guide on the end of the platform wanted me to do some hand over hand maneuver but I couldn’t figure out what he was saying so he came and got me by wrapping his legs around me and pulling me to the platform.
After that, no more problems with braking!
The next platform was very high – over 70 feet in the air – and the climb up was difficult. It was very hot and the rocks were very uneven. I don’t know that I would have gotten to the next platform if Michael hadn’t cheered me on all the way.
We zipped down the next six lines up to 250-feet between platforms and 85-feet high in the trees, at canopy level. It seemed like it was all over too soon.
But, I did it! No fear, just fun.
Here we are, after getting our gear off. The people behind Michael are just starting out on their zipline adventure. I thought maybe we could go again…?
Next stop was lunch in the trees. It was a buffet similar to those in Barbados – a jerk chicken (Eddie had said it would taste like chicken – might be egret, road kill, log-gator or even…chicken!), peas and rice, a pasta salad, cake, fruit salad, the usual fare.
Next up, cave tubing! This is the event I got my new waterproof camera for. Thanks again, Alice! If you’re interested in reading the cave tubing part, it’s here: http://www.cushingsonline.com/cruise/cruise2009.htm
Filed under: Thankfulness | Tagged: 40 Days, Belize, bells, Cancer, cave tubing, computers, Dr. Roberto Salvatori, Facebook, handbells, Johns Hopkins, kidney cancer, MaryO, Thankfulness, zipline | 1 Comment »
I haven’t been too great on keeping this list up online but I have been keeping up on my computer so there will be a few catchup posts like this one.
Day 22 (November 5): Jack Canfield’s book Chicken Soup for the Surviving Soul: 101 Healing Stories About Those Who Have Survived Cancer. There is a great piece in there called The Best Day of my Life. I’ve written about it before on http://cushingshelp.blogspot.com
Day 23 (November 6): Lou Argow. She’s been my counselor for many years, starting with my terrifyingly real dreams of death. Thanks, Lou!
Day 24 (November 7): SusanM on the message boards. She did something so wonderful for me a few years ago, words can’t even describe it. Fortunately, I have described it before. 🙂 Read more here! People on the message boards can check this thread out. Thanks again, Susan!
Day 25 (November 8): Travel. I’ve been fortunate to be able to travel to several interesting places. Some, like Iceland, we just lucked in to. We’ wanted to go to Ireland but the travel agent couldn’t get us in at any time over that summer. She did get us a deal where, if we flew Iceland Air, they’d give us a free week in a hotel in Iceland before flying us to London. Duh! Wonderful trip.
Day 26 (November 9): My dear friend, and sister I never had, Alice. We’ve only met twice in person but we talk for several hours about every other day. We’re closer than any of my local friends. Happy Birthday, Alice!
Day 27 (November 10): TiVo. I love that I can fast forward through commercials and have all my favorite shows waiting for me when I lie down on the sofa (and fall asleep!) I probably wouldn’t have gotten one of these when we did but our son got us one for Christmas. He had it all set up and ready to go on Christmas morning. At that time, I had no idea of its capabilities but now, I don’t think I could live without it!
Day 28 (November 11): Veteran’s Day. I am thankful for those who have served and are serving now. My husband served during the Vietnam-era although he never had to go to Vietnam.
Day 29 (November 12): Crockpot. Yay!
Day 30 (November 13): Rainbows. I have a special affinity for them. To me, a rainbow is a sign that things are going to be ok. Years ago, our little family was in Florida. I felt guilty about going because my dad was terminally ill with his second bout of colon cancer. I was worried about him and said a little prayer for him. I was lying on the beach while DH and our son were in the ocean and I looked up and saw a rainbow. It was a perfectly clear, sunny afternon. I even called the people out of the water, in case it was something I wanted to see that didn’t really exist. They saw it, too.
Where in the world did that rainbow come from, if it wasn’t a sign?
Filed under: Thankfulness | Tagged: 40 Days, Alice, Cancer, colon cancer, counselor, crockpot, dad, death, Iceland, Lou Argow, MaryO, rainbow, SusanM, Thankfulness, The Best Day of My Life, TiVo, travel, veteran, Veteran's Day | Leave a comment »
Today is a very special day for me. I am thankful to so many, named and unnamed. This is the 23rd anniversary of my pituitary surgery at the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland.
I couldn’t have gotten to surgery without a myriad of books from the public library, my parents who watched my son while I was at NIH for 6 weeks pre-op, an oncologist, the endo who got me there… So many, and so many years of sickness just trying to get diagnosed.
I won’t bore anyone with my “story” but if anyone is interested, it’s available here.
The short version is that I knew I was sick starting about 2003. No doctors would offer any help. A chance description of Cushing’s convinced me that this was what I had. Even when I presented Xerox copies of medical texts to doctors, they would all say that I couldn’t have it. It was “too rare”. I was fat. I cheated on my diet. I was depressed. Go away. Take drugs.
I finally got to an endo who got me into NIH in 2006. During six weeks away from home as an in-patient, they diagnosed me with pituitary Cushing’s.
For those who don’t know, here’s where the pituitary gland is:
I had a 7 year old son and I was sure I was going to die during surgery, if not before. I wrote letters “just in case”. I was terrified of what could happen and also what would happen if I never had surgery. I knew I couldn’t live with the Cushing’s.
A college contempory of mine wasn’t so lucky. Luckily, I didn’t read this in the Alumni magazine until after my surgery. She had the same operation. She came from my home town. We had the same major at the same college, we were the same age. We had the same surgical and medical team. I recovered. The other woman died during surgery.
So, today, on my 23rd anniverary, I am thankful that I saw my son grow up, that my husband stuck with me, that I’m still alive, that I’m able to help others beat Cushing’s…
Thanks to Dr Edward Oldfield, NIH, nurses, doctors, Fairfax County Public Library and how it all worked out in the end.