Wednesday, October 29, 2008

TDP - Trying to be Normal

We're trying to be normal, despite this damnable disease. We've spent the last few days running around doing errands - groceries, laundry, and then there was the two days of Asking for Help.

We don't have health insurance, having been turned down by several agencies due to our pre-existing conditions of diabetes. So, one of our options was to apply to Social Security and to Michigan's Family Independence Agency for financial help. We know that Tom's medical treatments will be costly, and since we don't have that kind of money, it was clear we would need to request help, especially since my stroke has left me unable to continue as a full-time antiques dealer.

For the past two days, we've shuffled around the various aid offices. First we went to the state office, only to learn that they only accept walk-ins for 3 hours in the morning, and - of course - we were there in the early afternoon. Then we went to Social Security, only to learn that because of the antiques inventory I own (and am actively trying to sell to no avail due to horrible economic conditions), we are over the allowable asset limit stipulated by the US government.

Then, back the next day to the state office. As a walk-in, you are entitled to see a caseworker the same day as long as you sign in before 11 am. We were there at 9 am, and after a 90 minute wait, we spoke with a state caseworker. Unfortunately, we again have too many assets - and were again turned down. Except that we might qualify for food assistance, which will be determined within 30 days or so.

Here in Michigan, if you are young and have children, there's an aid program for you. If you can be qualified as disabled, you can get financial help. My stroke might qualify me as disabled, but having too many assets disqualifies me completely. Also, Tom and I each have a car, and our old van has been for sale for more than a year without any takers. We are allowed one car only, so that also disqualified us.

Now that we've established that we cannot get financial help from either state or federal government, we're now waiting until next week to find out what the trial study can offer. We don't know if it's going to cover Tom's treatment, but hope it will. He was turned down for a PET scan last week because he doesn't have health insurance nor the cash to cover the test. His oncologist ordered the test because it is critical in determining how far Tom's cancer has spread, and is part of standardized treatment for esophageal cancer.

If the study trial doesn't cover his PET scan, there's a Plan B out there somewhere. We are positive-thinkers, and I'm a firm believer in thinking outside the box.

Tom's doing well at eating soft foods, and has only lost one pound in the past week. He's stuffing himself with fruit smoothies, Ensure, egg dishes, milk, yogurt, juice, quesadillas (they went down a bit painfully, but he managed). He's definitely very tired of dairy products.

In the meantime, we're trying to be normal. It's good for our heads to be normal. Life isn't normal right now, but we're giving it our very best shot.


For the Little Sugarloaf Mermaid - so good to see you yesterday! You and your Tom are in our hearts, and our prayers - please stay strong - we're thinking about you every day. Call if there's anything we can help with. Really. Really-REALLY.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

TDP - Changes, changes

Misunderstood the trial study doctor, and our plans for meeting with her have changed - it's now a week from this Tuesday, on November 4th.

Although we're disappointed in having another delay, this extra week gives us a chance to do several things we probably otherwise wouldn't accomplish, so it's okay. It also allows us to catch our breath, re-evaluate, and prepare a bit better.

November 4th = Election Day! But we were anticipating not being available for voting on Election Day due to Tom's situation, so we've both already voted by absentee ballot. Nice to have that accomplished since we both feel strongly about voting.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

TDP - A Ray of Hope

We've had a call from the trial study doctor's office, and they've set up an appointment for us for this Tuesday in Ann Arbor. That's such good news!

We've been praying for this, and with all the other wonderful prayers all of you have offered, this is the beginning of Tom's road to health. Thank you, thank you, thank you - from the bottom of our hearts . . . it means so much to hear from you, and know you care enough to send us your heartfelt prayers.

I'm asking everyone to check here at my blog for news on Tom. So many of you have written me, for which I truly am grateful - but I just cannot answer each individual email. So for the latest on Tom, I'll start each blog about him with his initials TDP, so you'll be able to find them easily.

(And I'll be writing again about other things too - just to keep my sanity . . . )

Friday, October 17, 2008


It's time I got back to writing. It's been two very long and painful weeks, but now I must continue with life as it's been handed to us, and that means I need to get back to writing.

Two weeks ago today, Tom was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.

It's a very difficult cancer to battle. It usually doesn't show symptoms until it's in advanced stages. The treatment is brutal - or as our new oncologist says, "I'm going to really beat you up before treatment is finished."

It starts with daily radiation for at least six weeks, combined with chemo every other week. The program is designed to shrink his tumor as much as possible before surgery, which will remove the lower end of his esophagus and then reconnect the remaining esophagus to his stomach. It means chemo ports and stomach feeding tubes, since the radiation to the esophagus will cause extreme pain when Tom tries to swallow.

We have a good oncologist, one we like very much. He doesn't sugar-coat anything, and told us the truth - the prognosis isn't very good. But he also is strong on pointing out the good stuff - that Tom actually looks healthy, isn't a smoker or drinker (both major causes of this cancer), and has a very positive attitude. His blood tests this week were all very strong. Those are all in his favor - and Tom's not a quitter.

He's ready to fight.

Spending hours and hours on researching this uncommon cancer, I came across a trial study that is being held at U of Michigan hospital, about 1-1/2 hours from here. It's being directed by a nationally-known doctor who specializes in this cancer, and is testing a drug now currently being used successfully in the treatment of advanced colon cancer. Since colon cancer is similar in many ways to e-cancer, there's a strong belief that this could prove to be a significant drug. I gave a copy of the trial to our oncologist, and he almost fell out of his chair in glee!

Turns out he'd done his homework before meeting with us, and had already lined up some local trials for us to consider. He said that usually he has to talk people into trials, as many do not want to be a guinea pig. And here we were, shoving this piece of paper into his hands, asking - begging - to be considered for that trial. He hadn't been aware of this particular trial, and feels that it would be very good for Tom, so he's sent a referral asking for Tom to be admitted. Now we're just waiting to hear from the trial study . . . waiting is hard.

Tom's now lost 70 pounds since May. Since he was overweight, originally he could afford to lose weight. Now we're battling to keep his weight stable so he can get through treatment. He cannot eat much solid food, but can tolerate soups, scrambled eggs, fruit smoothies and similar soft foods. We should own stock in Ensure, because it's the bulk of his current diet.

Over the last couple weeks, the valleys have overtaken the hills, and it's been tough, but we're getting used to it. At least now we have some direction, when before we just knew it was bad but didn't know what could be done. It's the unknown that really screws your head.

We are both the patient - although Tom's getting the worst of the deal, I'm right here beside him every step of the way. We have a long and hard fight ahead, and we're ready for it. Well, we're as ready as we can try to be . . . and we are trying really, really hard.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Please Click???

If I could ask my readers for just one favor - could you please take a few seconds and click on the pink box at the right?

That one click, combined with all the others, will allow a woman in need to obtain a free mammogram. Women all over the country benefit from this, and all it takes is about 20 seconds of your time.

You can find out how many clicks are coming in each day, and how many free mammograms those click represent, by clicking on Results in the left column. Be sure to scroll down that page for more info.

(Love you, Mom.)


Friday, October 10, 2008

Doing It His Own Way - Terry Davis, Photographer

Photographers are an odd bunch of folks, and I mean that in a positive way.

Some are traditionalists - they shoot weddings, events, models, assignments for newspapers and magazines, and other things we tend to connect them with.

But some find a niche that is uncommon, like Terry Davis. Terry lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, and specializes in photographing the mining industry.

He doesn't have a huge amount of competition.

Terry actively works the mining trade, always searching for new ways to improve his business. He attends trade conventions, makes sure to introduce himself to as many potential clients as he can, and shakes a lot of hands. He never knows how many new clients he might get out of a trade convention, but he knows it takes time to build up a niche business. If he can walk away with some good contacts, and maybe a job or two, it's been worthwhile.

The magazine cover at the right is one Terry recently completed - and he has two more covers scheduled.

He's also found some business in shooting for corporations which need head shots of their executives. When a company needs photos of new execs for it's website, they don't have time to schedule for studio shooting. Terry's learned to shoot on the fly, with some really good results. Take a look at his new blog.

He also has a website that shows off his work, and it links to his portfolio at Shutterstock, which shows many of his mining industry photos.

Terry's easy-going style makes him a perfect choice for those last-minute gigs in the mining and industrial field. He loves the work, and it shows.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Dominent Eye - Which One Do You Use?

All photographers find themselves squinting through their viewfinder with one eye. It's handy to know which is your dominant eye to be certain everything lines up properly.

Here's a quick test to determine which is your dominate eye:

> Place both hands at arm's length in front of your face, and place the hands together making a small triangle - about 1/2 to 3/4 inch per side - between your thumbs and knuckles as shown in the picture.

> With both eyes open, look through the triangle, centering something specific. I used my computer screen as my focal point, but just about anything usable as a target will work

> Close your left eye. If your target object remains in view, you are right eye dominant. If your hands seem to move off the object and move to the left, you are left eye dominant.

It's been suggested that for the shooting sports - firearms and archery - that right eye dominant shooters should participate as right-handers, and left-eye dominants as left-handers. Don't know if this applies to photographers or not, but it's an interesting concept.

I'm left eye dominant, and have been naturally squinting through the viewfinder with my left eye. But I'm right-handed, which seems sort of strange. Yet it works - I use my left hand for lens adjustment, right hand for f-stop and shutter speed adjustments. Some how it all works.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Free Mammograms - The Breast Cancer Site

You may have noticed that I recently added something new on my right sidebar. Actually, you can hardly miss it - that bright pink box just slams you in the face.

It's a clickable box that takes you to The Breast Cancer Site, where you can click on a box that enables a fund through sponsors which gives free mammograms to those in need.

It doesn't cost you a cent, and literally takes less than 20 seconds (and my computer is slower than most). Wander this site and you'll learn about where these free mammograms are given, how many have been funded this month through clicks, and other ways you can help.

This site began eight years ago, and over the years has funded free mammograms for more than 11,000 women in need. There's a map which shows programs in the US which benefit from both clicks and from purchases in the site's store, as well as info on how many clicks are coming in on a daily, monthly and yearly basis.

Just do it - you can make a difference. Click on that bright pink box at the right, and then click on the button at the Breast Cancer Site. Do it every day, not just for October. This is an on-going program, and your click counts every time.

If you can add this clickable box to your website, you can link to them through this link.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month - so click on on this site and get started. Do it for your mother, your sister, your wife, your daughter. Do it for anyone you love who has breasts! :)

I click on this site every day in memory of my Mom, Gloria Chernecki, who died of breast cancer in 2003. Love you, Mom.


Monday, October 06, 2008

Rent Your Equipment - Pro Photo Rental

Need a specific lens, but can't afford to buy it? Want to try out a different camera body?

It's Pro Photo Rental to the rescue. Love the idea - professional photogs who recognize the need for equipment rental, and make it as simple as possible. You don't have to commit for a week on your rental - you can rent for as little as 4 days. And they offer their equipment at a discount if you want it for longer.

They ship equipment in nearly indestructible boxes, and - just in case you're worried - they offer optional insurance, too. Pro Photo offers Canon, Nikon and Olympus equipment, including lenses, bodies and flashes.

They even give you three-day shipping in both directions within the continental US for free! The rental is set up to arrive one day before the actual rental time period, so you'll get a half day or so extra on the front end, plus the portion of the day on the back end of the rental period when you ship it back.

Here's their latest popular rentals:

Top 10 Sellers
See our list below of this week's most rented equipment!

Canon - EOS 40D Body
Canon - 580 EX-II Speedlight
Canon - EF 24-70 f/2.8L
Nikon - D300 Body
Olympus - Zuiko Digital 7-14 f/4.0
Canon - EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS
Canon - EOS 5D Body
Nikon - Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8G VR
Nikon - SB-800 AF Speedlight
Canon - EF 16-35 f/2.8L II

There's definitely a couple of lenses I need to try . . .

Okay - I Give Up - No More WordPress!

I'd originally thought it would be smart to split my blogs into two - one for photography, and one for antiques and everything else. I opened a new blog on Wordpress under the name PhotoLooney, utilizing it specifically for photography.

Sometimes, what seems like a good idea turns out not to be - PhotoLooney was difficult to manage, due to the complicated way that WordPress sets up it's features.

So - I give up! No more WordPress, and I'm back for good on Blogger. It'll be photography-based, with other stuff mixed in - foodie, antiques and more. After spending hours and hours trying to decipher WP, it's going to be good to come back to a site that is uncomplicated and easy to use.

Hurray for Blogger!

(but I may change my Blogger Name - I sorta liked PhotoLooney, which originated partially through a photographer friend who used to call me LooneyTunes)

:) b