Sunday, June 28, 2015

Farming: Another Hay Season

     For parents there are so many seasons in the year, more than just the normal four that we all are used to.  The same goes for farmers. 

     This year, Missouri's weather has just allowed us to get into the full swing of hay season.  Scrambling between heavy downpours that the summer thunderstorms have lent us.  

     The rain is a double edged sword.  We needed the rain something fierce, but as Mother Nature would have it, it is feast or famine.  

    On the up side,  I haven't had to water my garden once.  It is nearly July and our seasonal creek has not dried up yet.  The fields of grass are growing at phenomenal speeds.  The grass is so thick this year and with loads of clover!

     On the down side we are rushing to get into our fields when there is a three day stretch of only possible rain, crossing our fingers that we can get it baled before the next storm clouds roll in. 

 Why, with all of the frustrations of putting up hay, do I enjoy it so much?

     I do enjoy it more than those who do not have an air conditioned cab tractor, I would assume.  My partners did upgrade to an air cushioned seat as well.  That has made it quite a bit easier on my beat up body.  I do not have much to complain about when it comes to dealing with the heat of the hay field. 

     As a woman  and as one with handicaps, I do have to prepare for my days roaming up and down those lush pastures.  Doing this ensures that I can finish the job and in the best comfort possible. 

     Many days there is no bathroom facility.  We can only drip dry so many times before that becomes an issue.   Having toilet paper, napkins, paper towels or (old shirts?) in the cab is a huge convenience!

     Packing a cooler.  It is not always feasible to drive into town to grab lunch.  We lose precious time cutting grass and I must say it is quite nice to sit in the shade of the tractor tire or along the tree line and pop open a nice bottle of..................water, while watching wildlife or staring at the sky and relishing in how wonderful our lives really are. 

     Bringing a pillow of some sort to perch behind my lower back and frequent stretching with a bottle of Ibuprofen in the cup holder has become my staple. 

     We can sort out all of our problems in silence, except for the humming of the tractor or the swishing of the tedder.   We can also plug in an iPod and belt out everything from Merle Haggard to Motley Crue to Pink!   No one can hear how bad we sound and if it wasn't for our open mouths and limited dance moves showing through the glass windows, the other hay jocks would have no idea how much fun we are having!

     I am torn between loving the fields more when they are waist high or how clean and smooth they look as we roll out the last bale.  I love the feeling of accomplishment as I look across the bottom and view how much progress I've made in an afternoon. 

      I love knowing that I was involved in providing for our farm, the independence I have working alone or with one of my hay jocks and the satisfaction that I defied what professionals believed would never be in my daily activity again. 

     It does not matter what activity brings you these same feelings of accomplishment.  
Every accomplishment starts with one single decision. 

To Try.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Getting NAKED with Melanoma


 Even though the month of June in our little Missouri towns have been full of overcast skies and rain, we can still get overexposed to the sun's harmful rays.  I know we all want to feel the warmth since our Winter clamored on for so long and we really haven't been able to enjoy it much, but we must be careful about those burns.

     Yes, you can obtain a sunburn even if the sky is gray!

        As a child, I do not remember anyone making a big deal about sunscreen and it seemed we could stay outside for hours without obtaining that crispy layer of red over our body surface.  Those days are gone!  We have destroyed our protection in the atmosphere and if a blanket of sunscreen is not applied to our delicate outer body layer, we are turning crimson within twenty minutes.

     So let's go to the tanning booth!  Yeah! Noooooo!

     Of course studies relay that "fake tanning" can be equally as harmful or worse than the rays of the real sun.  My option is to spray tan and I buy the good stuff so it blends well with my normal skin tone.

     Anyone and everyone should visit with a dermatologist, not just when you notice a problem, but yearly so you can catch irregularities before they become a problem.  

   Few people know this about me, but I developed melanoma at twenty-nine years of age.  Working in the medical field, I had easy access to my physician and asked him to assess a mole that had grown on my back for years.  The mark was hard for me to view myself so detecting change was difficult.  Explaining that I had a sensation that something wasn't quite right is the only reason I had for asking him his opinion.  One look and I was sent to the Dermatologist asap.  

  All of us who work in health care understand that when the patient receives a call directly from the physician, all is not well.  That ugly mole that was not causing me any pain or discomfort was cancer.  Finding it in the early stages was essential and it was only detected because I had a "sensation".  It is important to listen to our bodies. 

     That initial finding was ten years ago.   Since then I am accustomed to visiting with my Dermatologist every six months to a year due to finding several other severely atypical nevi, all located on my back.  Since then, my physician has removed more than forty suspicious moles from my body by freezing or shaving methods.(yuck!)  Three more have been surgically excised.  Those three in particular would have also developed into melanoma had we not caught them early. 

     I am not an avid sunbather, although I am a tom boy at heart, enjoying the outdoors inevitably equips me with some sun exposure.  I do take precautions with sunscreen, hats and staying covered up with adequate clothing.  Rarely have I found myself in a tanning bed and the times I can count were all prior to my diagnosis. 

     So why do I continue having these problems if I adhere to the precautions?   Genetic melanoma.  By definition, it is a genetic or inherited condition. This means that the risk of melanoma can be passed from generation to generation in a family.  Yes, there are others in my family that have acquired this condition.  So far, I am the only one it keeps coming after.  

   So I didn't do anything wrong, it is just in my body.  I have a predisposition towards the disease and by continuing to take precautions that include taking ten minutes to stand in front of my Dermatologist  naked, I can significantly decrease my risk. 

     Of course the scars are not attractive.  There have been many loud whispers behind me during summer months wondering what in the world would cause such large defects.  "Did I get knifed?" has been my favorite so far.   

     As most of you know, scars are a part of my life since my auto collision and hint at a story without using words.  Attaining these marks of survival instead of receiving treatment over advanced melanoma has been the better choice, even if I am left with a road map of visible challenges.  

Most likely I will acquire more, but each time I understand that because I take care of my health, I am controlling melanoma instead of melanoma controlling me.
Prevent. Detect. Live.

      Never be ashamed of a scar, it simply means you were stronger than whatever tried to hurt you.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Learning Public Speaking and Overcoming my Fear

     Public Speaking.  My worst fear.  EVER!

     So three years into my recovery my husband and I are discussing my urge to speak publicly about my recovery.   I really wouldn't say it was my urge, but that I was being tugged by an unseen force. ( that's a whole story in itself) 

     Those that know me well realize that public speaking is an action that I have avoided at all cost.  I could not even give a speech at my best friends wedding due to my extreme shyness!  

     Being the center of attention, having all eyes on me, everyone listening to what I want to say?  Fooor.....getttt it!

     This urge to speak up was so strong that it would not be ignored any longer.  Fine.  I need help.  My husband gives presentations like clock work at his work establishment.  Following his guidance, I slowly began thinking of what I wanted to speak about and how I would share it. 

    I received an email from him one afternoon, forwarding information about an online class that he had received from a co-worker with whom he had shared my dilemma.  The six week class was offered by the University of Washington State and stated all students would record four presentations varying from ninety seconds up to ten minutes.  

     This is perfect for me.  I don't have to get up in front of a class, it is just myself and a video recorder.  I can do this.  I need to do this.

     At that point, I could not imagine speaking about anything for ten minutes!  I laugh at that now because ten minutes is over and I'm like, "Wait, I'm not done!"

     Our very first assignment was just a short ninety second speech stating our reason for entering this class.  It was ridiculous how nervous I still became in my living room and a camera pointed towards me!   All I could think about was how many people would be viewing this.   We posted to You Tube and I knew only class members could view it, but still.  I. was. ridiculous.

     My tongue was thick, my sentences ran together.  I definitely hadn't mastered the "dramatic pause"  or any pause for that matter.  I re-recorded it at least seven times if my recollection is correct.  This was going to be a huge challenge for me.  

     So this is how I started my public speaking endeavor and if this shy, introverted woman can do it, there is hope for everyone who faces this same fear.