Sunday, September 10, 2017

Please Help Me!!!!


As I've mentioned in previous posts, I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in February 2017.  Since then I have undergone 6 rounds of chemo, a double mastectomy and began reconstruction.

I've been off of work since June 2017 and with short-term disability I only bring home about half of what I usually bring home when actively working.  Anyone that knows me knows that I HATE to ask for assistance of any kind, but I realize when I am sinking and I'm reaching out for help to stay afloat, financially.

Please click the link below to donate and/or share my Go Fund Me link.



Monday, July 10, 2017

Two Helpful Solutions for Installing OS on a New MacBook Hard Drive

"Don't count me out yet.", says the vintage 'Book. (under the cover)

My 2011 MacBook's hard drive recently went kaput on me and I replaced it myself.  You can click here to read all about that process.  Turns out it was extremely easy to do.

In fact, replacing the hard drive was so easy I came crashing down when I realized getting the OS (operating system) onto the new hard drive was going to take a bit of research and much more time.  Replacing the hard drive was under 30 minutes to complete.  However!! Due to a couple of issues, getting the OS onto the hard drive took an hour!! And then it took another hour before the computer was actually functional for use.

A full two hours, people!

And here's why:

1.  In recovery mode I chose to (re)install the Sierra OS via the internet but the hard drive was not an option for which to place the system on.

I tried and I tried.  Several hard shut downs (by pressing the Power button for a few seconds) and the hard disk never appeared as an option!!!!  I'd choose my WiFi and enter my password and then choose to install the OS and would be met with a message that made me cringe: "Untrusted_Cert_Title".  And that was it.  I could go no further.

I eventually had to get my Google on.  I found the most bizarre solution:  check the terminal for the date and time.  If incorrect, this is your problem.  Correct it and try again.  And it worked!

Here are the instructions I followed while in Recovery Mode:

From Bensmann.no

Great, right!  Now I'm on track.  All I have to do is go back, install the OS via internet and be good to go!

That turned out to be a big SIKE!

So, here's Number 2:

I tried to install Sierra again after correcting the computer's date and time, but still,  I needed a place to put it. (Why couldn't I wrap my head around this reality???)  The new hard drive is still not showing as an option.

Ugh!  BACK TO GOGGLE!

I found a solution on ifixit.com to settle the hard drive option issue once and for all:


  • In Recovery Mode choose Disk Utility
  • Click on the hard drive on the left
  • At the top choose Erase
  • Name the hard drive
  • Erase

Once done with the above instructions, close disk utility and voila!  I was then able to successfully get the OS onto the hard drive and use my 'Book.

Start to end it took me TWO HOURS!!

So, I give to you this comprehensive solution to the two issues I encountered to save you time and frustration.  Had I known these solutions at the beginning.... Had I sought solutions instead of thinking shutdowns would make a difference and produce a technical miracle, I could have saved myself at least about an hour, I believe.

Go forth with the knowledge, my fellow DIY-ers!  Fix your "vintage" MacBook and be merry!  Use the money you saved on a professional fix and do something nice for yourself.  (Start a "New MacBook Fund" with it, maybe.-- haha)




Sunday, July 9, 2017

I Replaced My MacBook's Hard Drive & You Can (DIY) Too! [Video]


I know.. Me and this damn MacBook, right?!

About a year ago I began having issues with the ole 'Book, visited Apple and got the $600 issue fixed at no cost to me.  Click this link to check that whole story out: 2011 MacBook Pro Recall

And now I'm back with yet another story about this great machine.  (I mean.. It is 6 years old though. What do I expect, huh?)

About a month or more ago my computer began acting funky again: running super slow, getting to the desktop on start up super slow, internet running super slow.  SLOW!  Everything was slow.  And soon after that began I began to get reminders that my storage space was dangerously low.  I did a Time Machine backup of everything and proceeded to erase documents and pictures off of the computer that I didn't much need to have readily accessible.  Though this freed up some valuable storage space, it did nothing for the issues I had been having with the computer.

Next, I decided to try erasing the hard drive and start from scratch.  No matter what I did, I could not erase the drive.  It wouldn't unmount.  And then I did something, I think it was installing the OS from Recovery Mode, and it appeared as though the hard disk had nothing on it, but once I got Sierra back onto the computer and began to use it again I continued to suffer issues.  I checked out the hard drive again and lo and behold it was once again full.

For weeks I toyed around with reinstalling the OS and attempting to erase the hard drive and nothing worked.  A time a came that the Book did this series of 3 consecutive beeps at me and wouldn't get to a sign on screen when I turned it on.  And that's when I knew I had to go see the geniuses.

Wouldn't it be just my luck that my 2011 15" MacBook Pro had been officially declared "vintage" 10 days prior to my visit to the Apple Store?!  (I mean, I agree with them.  It's pretty old in technology years.)  And "vintage" means that Apple will not touch it.  As it was explained to me by the kind Genius guy, Apple no longer has the tools and/or parts to fix vintage machines.  So, I guess they would if they could, but they simply cannot.

Though he could not fix it for me, The Apple Genius did run diagnostics on my computer and found that the hard drive had a red triangle with an exclamation point, which indicates that it needs to be replaced.  He pointed me to an official third-party Apple repair shop or Best Buy for a professional repair.  And then he says, "You could get a hard drive and fix it yourself.  It's honestly really easy to do."

That afterthought laid on my ears like magic.  Tell me more, my eyes begged (I'm sure).  He suggested that I check out MacSales for a new hard drive and instructional videos on how to replace the drive.  He stressed that I want to perform this task in a static-free environment, but other than that, was pretty confident that I could do this repair myself.

I shopped MacSales for a new hard drive and came across a used, original Apple 500 GB hard drive for $22!!!  I ordered that along with a tool set to get the job done.  Including taxes and shipping I paid about $29.  I received the items in less than a week!

I sat down with my MacBook not really sure about if my environment was, indeed, static-free or not. I opted to sit on my bed and fix it on a portable desk surface.  As long as my feet weren't touching the carpet, right?? (I had no clue and was too lazy to research it.--Horrible!).




Pre-swap: Beneath the back cover


The guy from the Apple Store was right!  Took me about 25 minutes to swap the hard drives and it was easy-peezy!  The most time-consuming task (for me) was the removal of the screws from the bottom of the computer.  There are 3 long(er) screws and 7 shorter ones.  The shorter ones seemed to be tighter than the longer and harder to remove, though I could also just blame it on being inexperienced and a little afraid (remember that static..).

Here's the video I followed:



See?  Super easy.

Instead of going to the professionals and paying $200 or more for a fix, I fixed it on my own for under $30.

If your hard drive needs replacing, you may want to consider saving yourself some dough by going the DIY route.

Stay tuned for a soon to come post on my process of installing the OS on the new hard drive and getting back to a functional (vintage) MacBook.


Friday, May 26, 2017

Review: iPhone 7 Plus Camera vs. Canon PowerShot SX 620 HS


Recently the thought popped in my head that I wanted to have some real-deal photography equipment on my side; basically a camera that any photog would utilize to make what they are blessed to actually be in front of,  come to life and choke all viewers not on the scene with envy.

I want to be the owner of super crisp images that are magazine-worthy, ya know?  So, I took to the internet and checked out all the many options out there.  I think a $500+ camera would really sate this yearning, but financially, it's out of my reach.  (And what do you do when something is out of your reach??.. Hope you didn't say "Work hard and GET IT!!"  Nooooo.)  So, I settled for what I could comfortably afford: A Canon PowerShot SX 620.

After reading several reviews on various sites I decided that Canon's point and shoot would suffice (though I really wish I could have kicked for one of their EOS models).  Their SX 620 is currently $230 at most large retailers; a bit cheaper than its original ticket price of about $280.  I got mine from Best Buy just yesterday and am a bit sad that I will be returning it as soon as I feel up to getting back to the store (which will surely be before the 15th day after purchase).  This camera is just not worth the cost for me, because my iPhone 7 Plus' camera is better.

Now, please keep in mind that I'm no professional at photography.  In fact, I'm like an amateur's amateur.  Seriously.  I just learned a little something about lighting about a month ago.  I just love seeing beautiful things and I love to share them.  That's all this whole (more) "professional" camera kick is all about.  And even with that little disclaimer I feel confident in saying that if you own a later model iPhone you may want to skip this camera as a replacement.

Overall, I think the iPhone 7 Plus has a wider angle and the zoom on both distorts just as bad as the other.  As I like to say, the zoomed pictures have a certain degree of "ash", as others like to say, "noise". Both cameras shoot well in most lighting situations, even on the same level in low-lighting situations, which is one of the main reasons why I wanted a more professional camera.

Here are some pictures for comparison:

iPhone Zoom

Canon 620 Zoom

Okay, Christmas is long gone.  I know, but I also happen to know that I'm a little on the lazy side.  This wreath will probably never make it to the attic. *giggles*

So, from the pictures it appears as though the zoom on both devices is not at precisely the same exact level; however, I did notice that the Canon's scope is not as wide as the iPhone's in general.  In this particular iPhone snap you see quite a bit more of the wreath than in Canon's.  I believe that is due to a bit of how much zoom I used for the shots as well as because Canon's angle just isn't as wide as the iPhone's.

With this one I prefer the iPhone's shot, which appears more saturated (or soft with the colors), although Canon's shot is actually closer to the real-life colors of the wreath.

iPhone

Canon SX 620

This picture was not taken in the same orientation (iPhone held vertically instead of horizontally) and the same amount of zoom was definitely not used, but once again, I like the iPhone shot better because of the color vibrancy.

(Maybe there is a setting to change on the Canon to alter that?-- At this point, I don't know nor care, my mind is set on returning it.)

iPhone with flash and zoom

Canon SX 620 with flash and zoom

This picture illustrates once again how the Canon gets less into the frame than the iPhone; however I like Canon shot better on this one.  The saturation of the iPhone shot loses the vibrancy of colors, I think.  Or it could be that the phone's flash is just not as strong as Canon's.

Excuse the bit of a mess going on, on the bed.  This one goes to Canon.

iPhone

Canon SX 620
Alright, I'm starting to see that it's more to do with your preference on how soft you prefer your shots to be.  This shot with the dirty wine glasses (that are now strictly for my Apple Juice binges) goes to Canon for me.  I like the crispness this shot has with the brighter white and paler blue in the curtain pattern behind the glasses.

iPhone

Canon SX 620
And again, the iPhone 7 Plus' camera has that color boldness, while the Canon is more so a truer depiction of what you see in person.

So, I guess it's not so much of the iPhone's camera being "better", as I stated in the beginning of this post, than me simply preferring the color saturation of the iPhone's camera.  The two cameras actually pretty much deliver the same except for when it comes to what the devices can get into the frame, with the iPhone being the obvious winner there.

It's also worth a mention that I shot a vlog with the Canon and the wifi upload to my phone failed.  The wifi connection to my computer from/with the camera failed totally.  The computer just would not come up as a recognized device on the camera.  I once again settled and transferred only the pictures to my phone/iCloud.  I really wish I could get the video on either of my usual (larger) devices because the preview screen on the cam is so small, but it looked about the same as all the iPhone videos I've taken.

Which brings me to another issue... The transfer of pictures and videos between devices; particularly getting them onto my computer.  Whatever I record or snap with my iPhone goes to the cloud and I can just continue work with them from my MacBook, or in a worst case scenario I just hook my phone up to the computer and import the photos and vids into Photos.  With the camera this wifi share is pretty cool, except for it doesn't seem to work too well with larger files, such as the 18-minute video I shot on it last night.

Eventually, I figured out to stick the SD card in my MacBook and transferred the video that way.  The depiction on the camera's small screen was accurate: Quality not any better than what the iPhone produces.

Bottom line is that I'm the owner of a roughly $900 iPhone (128 gb).  Spending $230 on a camera that does not do more than the iPhone's camera and even (in my opinion) lacks a bit, isn't the right move.

**Since beginning this post days ago I have already returned the camera and purchased a Canon Rebel T5i second-hand on eBay.  That camera is said to be a great cam for beginner Photographer/videographers. And I snagged it for just $350.  Should be a great investment for years to come; kicking out better quality vlogs, visually, as well as photos.

I'll keep y'all posted.









Tuesday, May 16, 2017

No Joke: Foods and Many Other Everyday Products Could Be Harming You



Prior to my diagnosis of estrogen positive (100%), progesterone positive (3%-m'eh), HER 2 positive (98%) Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (Breast Cancer) I had not a care in the world about the ingredients in the products I used in my household nor on my body.  I also gave little thought to the ingredients in the foods I consumed.  I love cakes and ice cream as much as I love spinach and sweet bell peppers.  What's wrong with that, right?  I got a nice balance going on.  Or so I thought.

We all recognize that cakes and ice cream are loaded with sugars and carbs and fats that should be enjoyed in serious "moderation" doses.  Especially, if you are like me: overweight/ teettering on the line of clinically obese with a BMI of 29.8.  (Here's a good place to plug that since diagnosis I have lost 9 pounds thanks to cutting out sodas and drinking copious amounts of water daily as well eating better--YAY!) The dangers of junk food is pretty much all preached out.  I think everyone gets it.  But  what about the dangers of the healthy stuff?  The fruits and vegetables?

Many of you are probably screwing your face up and have strong thoughts to move on from this post, but I implore you to hear me out.  I used to have the same reaction, "People are crazy! All these conspiracies! Fruits and vegetables are good for you!" 

Well, turns out that the use of pesticides and fungicides potentially turn that last sentence into a falsehood.

According to EWG.org among other potentially harmful pesticides found on many produce items is Carbendazim which is known, for sure, to be toxic to the male reproductive system and is a suspected hormone disruptor.  Hormone disruptors, also referred to as endocrine disruptors, is defined by National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) as: "chemicals that may interfere with the body's endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune effects in both humans and wildlife."  NIEHS' site goes on to say that the institute supports studies to determine if exposure to these disruptors cause lowered fertility, an increase in endometriosis and some cancers.  Here's their explanation of what these disruptors (can) do inside the body:

  • Mimic or partly mimic naturally occurring hormones in the body like estrogens (the female sex hormone), androgens (the male sex hormone), and thyroid hormones, potentially producing overstimulation.
  • Bind to a receptor within a cell and block the endogenous hormone from binding. The normal signal then fails to occur and the body fails to respond properly. Examples of chemicals that block or antagonize hormones are anti-estrogens and anti-androgens.
  • Interfere or block the way natural hormones or their receptors are made or controlled, for example, by altering their metabolism in the liver.
The mimicking one-1st bullet-- is my chief concern.  The cells that this breast tumor is comprised of all have receptors for estrogen and thrive and proliferate when estrogen binds to its corresponding receptor... or when something that seems like estrogen binds.  Estrogen overstimulation??.. Clearly, I have a problem.

And it's not just residual pesticides that pose a threat to our bodies. How about chemicals in everyday health and beauty products??  EWG has a great search tool that allows you to find out what your faves are made of.  (Click here to see for yourself)

What I found out in the search of hygiene products I use everyday is that lotions, face wash, soap, and deodorant all have to go!  They all contained ingredients that known to be toxic to organs (via absorption) and disruptive to the endocrine system.  I was hard-pressed to find any of my makeup on the naughty list, but surprisingly, (and thankfully), none made it.

I placed an order with Bubble and Bee Organic yesterday to replace my daily-use deodorant, soap, face lotion and cleanser.  I will give a review on these products in a few weeks.

And then in addition to foods and health and beauty products you have plastic products that pose a threat as well with PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and BPA (bisphenol A) which are both known endocrine and reproductive system disruptors.  To lessen your exposure to BPA use glass and ceramic (anything but plastic) whenever possible, especially when reheating and storing foods and avoid PVC products, period.

And you know... Many people have and will live very long lives without a shakeup to their health.  This population may use whatever products they want and eat what they like with no regard to exposure to harmful compounds.  I think that is super cool.   But for me, a current cancer patient, even if one day announced "CURED", I cannot risk it.  I cannot risk toxic exposure like I'm not especially susceptible to an ailment such as cancer, like many others that have not fallen victim to this ailment may be willing to do.

Cancer forces you to live a certain lifestyle; while the tumor is there and even long after it is gone.  You cannot feed it.  Whatever you take in, whether it be a thought, a food, a drink... You're forced to think: "Am I feeding cancer too?  Is my body a nice, comfy home for cancer to thrive in?.. Will ingredients in this perfume absorb into my skin and cause an increase in estrogen in my body?"  I have to be conscious.  I'm finding that it's a bit of an inconvenience, but you know what a bigger inconvenience is?? (You guessed it: CANCER!)

I'll close this post with EWG's 2017 lists of the dirtiest (most harmful) and the cleanest (least harmful) produce; though there is a minor update that didn't make the visual: Pears are #6 on the Dirty side.  Don't know if that means we now have a "Mean 13" or if the list remains "Dirty Dozen" with potatoes dropping off.  Either way, I'm keeping all 13 in mind and avoiding what I cannot peel all together.



No wonder I cringed as I sat in line at the local Walmart recently watching an elderly man rest leisurely on his cart as he ate dusty grapes fresh from the produce section.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Delayed Reaction to Chemo After Round 1 [Video]



After chemo round 1 my hair began to come out  more than usual with combing just days later.  Easter weekend I got the cut that can be glimpsed in the above picture.  From there, about 2 weeks in my hair fell out with a combing, leaving me all whipsy-haired like a damaged q-tip, with a bald spot at the crown.

That was expected.

The full body rash I developed 2 weeks and 2 days afterwards was not expected!   Last weekend ended very uncomfortably for me and left me with a question on my mind: QUIT CHEMO OR NO?

The good news is that the tumor is just about nonexistent.  So something is working in that toxic chemo cocktail, but on the other hand the cocktail seems to be threatening my very existence.  Of course, I've heard, "Chemo's no fun." and all of that, but is it always really necessary?

The last question I'll answer for myself and address at a later date with a video.  For now, check out the full details about the rash in the below video:


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Round One of Chemo-- My Day After Was Brutal!



Thursday, April 6, 2017 was my first round of 6 chemotherapy rounds.  Each round is to be separated by at least 21 days, giving a total of 18 weeks of chemo.

Here is a timeline of how this first round went: (all drugs *in bold* delivered intravenously)

8:30 AM    Arrived at Doctor's office/Fusion Center
9:07 AM    Steroid
9:18 AM    Benadryl
9:27 AM    Suddenly extremely tired. (Cool rush to my head--eyes?)
9:33 AM    Emend
***Fell asleep***
10:00 AM  Spoke with Pharmacist
10:13 AM  Left upper arm (IV arm) sore. Warm to touch (due to blanket?). Place pillow underneath arm and blood flow was checked.
10:15 AM  Aloxi
10:43 AM  Perjeta
11:45 AM  Herceptin
1:38  PM   Docetaxol
**Tiny wave of nausea hits**
3:05  PM   Carboplatin
~4:05 PM IV "flushed"
4:10 PM all done!!

Long day, right?!

Before I was unhooked for the day a Neulasta OnPro was attached to my stomach.  I went home feeling a tiny bit tired, but not exhausted.  The day went on pretty much as usual, though I could tell that I wasn't physically up for much.  My sister and nephews stopped by to check on me and I wasn't much for company.  Can't really tell how much of that can be contributed to my mental or psychological state; with the realness of the diagnosis and the day's events heavy on me or how much was a true physical tiredness.

I slept pretty well that night.  Since leaving the fusion center and sleeping I had taken anti-nausea and steroid medications as directed and then I woke up on Friday and continued to take as directed.  Friday I felt flutters of nausea but nothing that I found to be particularly bothersome.  The waves were a tiny stray from normalcy.  Only noticeable in the way that you come to know your body in over 30 years of existence.  If I were in my teens it would have probably gone unnoticed.  So, needless to say, Friday was cool.

...Until it wasn't cool!

The Neulasta OnPro releases the medication 27 hours after it is attached to your body.  The administration of the drug was okay.  As instructed, I took Claritin about an hour before the OnPro release began (actually ended up being a bit shy of an hour).

And this is were everything went to SHIT! (Figuratively and quite literally.)

From about 8:10-ish to 10:30 PM I experienced:

Extreme diarrhea
Hard to breathe
Swollen face
Extreme lethargy
Extreme abdominal/pelvic contractions
Extreme lack of coordination

The entire experience was surreal!  Thinking back on it I imagine I looked like I was in the midst of transforming from Mr. Hyde to Dr. Jekyll as I lay writhing around on my bathroom floor clutching my stomach and gulping air.

The entire ordeal was not pleasant!

Check out this video detailing it all:

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Update on this whole BREAST CANCER thing [Video]



Since my last update I got a bit of decent news: All the gene mutations tested for came back negative for me!! (Yay!)

I was tested for the following gene mutations:
BRCA 1 (Breast and Ovarian Cancer)
BRCA 2 (Breast and Ovarian Cancer)
PAL B 2 (Breast and Pancreatic Cancers)
CHEK 2 (Breast and Colon Cancer)
ATM
CDH1
PTEN
TP53

All negative.  I didn't jot down what cancers the last 4 genes are responsible for. (sorry)  But this news was good news for me.  Based on these results my case of breast cancer isn't due to a gene mutation, which has been explained to me also means that the risk of recurrence is a bit lower than usual.

So.

This news coupled with my treatment plan of chemo, Herceptin and Perjeta (and later Tamoxifen) has given rise to a new surgery option for me: lumpectomy.

From the day of diagnosis I was set on a bilateral mastectomy.  (That's what emotion-based decisions look like for me.) However, now the less invasive procedure seems like the most logical option.  The only issue I have with the lumpectomy is the follow-up radiation.

Then again, I have an issue with this entire damn thing.

Here's my latest Youtube videos on the topic:

(there's a medical talk vid)



(And a vid about organization suggestions. Remember: You gotta stay on top.)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

My Breast Cancer Journey: Mammogram and MRI Experience [Video]



Welp, It's been a couple weeks since I revealed to the world my Breast Cancer diagnosis.  Since I first learned of my diagnosis, I've decided to switch Breast Surgeons and have a second pathology opinion.  Since the switch I've felt more confident with my care and treatment plan. This breast surgeon is part of an entire cancer team at a great hospital.  On our initial visit she made me aware of a Pathologist at the hospital that specializes in breast tissue (and breast cancer diagnosis) and immediately made a request for the tissue samples taken by the hospital that performed my biopsy was sent out.  Also she recommended that I see a Medical Oncologist (MO) that is part of her team.  I have no plans on dropping the Oncologist that I have found on my own, but I have agreed to an appointment with the MO.  Various looks, perspectives and knowledge can't hurt in this situation.  She also actually addressed my Lymphedema concerns and said that they have therapists that specialize in prevention, treatment and maintenance of Lymphedema that I would be introduced to closer to the date of surgery.

My new Breast Surgeon also suggested a treatment plan, (which I will make an entire post on later).  First step was to continue with diagnostic procedures: the second opinion on pathology, a mammogram and breast MRI.  The pathology results are pending.  The imaging, I spent an entire Friday afternoon handling.

The mammogram included 3D imaging and was not at all what I expected (Luckily)!  I was so afraid of the mammogram!! I called the Breast Surgeon a few days prior to the appointment and asked her if we could just skip the mammo.  She eased my fears and I found myself in a room getting the gentle squeeze around 12:30 on a Friday. Absolutely no pain!  It was fabulous, ladies!  DO NOT BE AFRAID!  

If you've been putting off mammograms because of fear of a terrible squeeze, don't fear.  Seriously.  I think that maybe if you talk to the technician performing the mammo, and voice your apprehension and fears, he/she may be able to prepare you for what to expect and this may also cause him/her to be mindful of your concerns and to work in a manner which eases those concerns.

The MRI?.. that was uncomfortable.  Took a total of 40 minutes or so from when I was called to the back to when I was all done.  The way the body is positioned for the MRI made it a bit nightmarish for me.

If you want to hear all about my experience check out this vid:





 Please donate to my Breast Cancer Care Fund (click link) or visit www.youcaring.com/MyBreastCancerBattle



Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Red iPhone 7 Coming Soon!


Beautiful!

Apple is releasing the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus in a gorgeous matte red.  Orders can be made beginning at 8:01 AM, Pacific Time on Friday, March 24th.

A portion of proceeds from every red iPhone purchased will contribute to the (RED) Global Fund in the continued fight for an AIDS-free generation. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

My Latest Life Battle: Breast Cancer [Video]



Eek!!!

Breast. Cancer.

This Friday will be 3 weeks since my diagnosis.  At the young, sweet, tender age of 34 I've been given this scary diagnosis.  When I got the news and many days later, even now to an extent, I just felt lost: uninformed and blind and unsure.  It's like with any fight, you enter the battle thinking you can win.  That you have a chance.  And sometimes you are in the midst of the event and realize maybe you're in over your head.  Maybe this win isn't as sure as you once thought it to be.

With the diagnosis so fresh, I'd say about 99% of my thoughts are positive.  I just learned who/what the opponent is and I know some people (doctors) that have good tools and techniques to help me in the fight.  Mostly, I feel confident, aside from the anxiety of wanting to just get on with the fight so I can slink away exhausted with my battle scars much sooner rather than later.  But it's a process.  There's more consultations and scans to be had and opinions to be made at this point.

And then there's that 1% of thoughts that creep in.  The thoughts of "What if I do all this and it's for nothing?" or "Does chemo really do more harm than good?  And what other choice do I have?" and a few more that all have to do with mortality.

I actually have an aunt that was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in the mid-90's.  She's still alive and well today.  But I take her outcome with a grain of salt.  Cancer seems to be tricky.  It seems that more often than not, no two outcomes are the same.

So, it's a lot that I try not to worry about.  Daily I begin sticking it in the far back corner of my mind.  But by mid-day I usually have several internet tabs open reading research papers, excerpts from scientific journals, and of course stories from survivors.

I sleep well knowing that ultimately, what will be will be.

I will be vlogging throughout this journey.  Here is my first video detailing my lump discovery up to present-day.  (Gotta warn you, it's a long one.)


Friday, March 3, 2017

Why Moonlight Won



If Barry Jenkins' Oscar-winning film, Moonlight, were a meal, it would fall into the category of the type that "sticks to your ribs".  It's not Chilean Sea Bass drizzled with a butter sauce, complemented with freakishly skinny carrots that remind you of the Grinch's fingers and the obligatory sprigs of parsley on a bone china plate.  It's more like a plate of tender roast beef and mashed potatoes smothered in gravy with a side of string beans.  It sticks with you.

I didn't catch Moonlight while it was in theaters.  At the time, getting to the movies was something that I just couldn't seem to fit into my schedule.  So, I kept a reminder on my phone, set it for bi-weekly alerts, "Moonlight on iTunes".  Finally, it was available for purchase.  I bought and watched.  This was only 2 days prior to the infamous Oscar flub in which the movie walked out victorious.

I watched once and I thought about it all day after viewing.  Aretha Franklin's "One Step Ahead" replayed over and over in my head.  Scenes from the movie flashed in my mind.  I had to watch again.  The very next night was my second viewing.  With that, my suggestion to family and friends became fervent.  Every conversation, "Oh my God! Have you seen Moonlight?!.. You have to see it!"  "Rent Moonlight, or come over and watch it!"  Never one for company, I was legit handing out invitations.  I wanted everyone to see this movie!  Even when I couldn't quite put my finger on what was so intriguing about it.

And then the Oscars came and the picture earned an award for Best Picture of the Year!  And I'm all like, "I knew it!" Some may not agree, put this picture is too good!  This is a picture that opens with the words "Every nigga is a star!" In the hood.  An entire black cast.  The story of a young boy (Chiron) growing up with a single mother that is addicted to crack, the man (Juan) that provided him some sort of guidance killed by the time he reaches his late teen years... A gay black boy growing up in the projects.  Not fitting in with the norm in his environment.  A story of reinvention.  A story that reminds us all that underneath it all, "You are who you are".  Period.

Moonlight is so relatable. And that is what gives it this adhesive property.  It strikes a chord with people from all backgrounds.  The Moonlight-lovers aren't all gay black males from the hood that faced Chiron's exact obstacles, but many can relate to family drama and shame, being the target of a bully and/or not wanting to be themselves at some point in life.

How many people have heard it said about them, or maybe they have said it about someone else, "He/she wasn't like that in high school."?  Just as Kevin pointed out with Chiron's change from a slim, meek kid that was bullied at school as well as at home to a grown chiseled man wearing du-rags and gold grills, chains and watches.  Juan was probably the epitome of what a man is to young Chiron.  Juan got respect unlike the young Chiron and when he got older, as Juan once told him, he had to figure out who he wanted to be and that's what he chose.

We all choose, whether we realize it or not.  As we go through life we adapt to our environment as well as adopt traits and characteristics that we find favorable.  Especially as kids.  By the time we are adults, we've blossomed into this being that is a result of all of that.  And as we age there comes a time that we realize we have to find our true happiness regardless of what society deems acceptable or cool.

That's what Moonlight feeds you.

I've watched it a total of four times now in less than a week.  If you have not yet seen it, click the link to purchase or rent from iTunes: MOONLIGHT


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

New Music: Three Stripes by Bell Biv DeVoe (BBD) [Interview Video]



You know you gotta strike while the iron is HOT!!

Thus, fresh off the heels of The New Edition Story, the 3-member group Bell Biv DeVoe aka BBD, released an album by the name of Three Stripes on Friday.  It's an all-around good piece of work.  Of 10 songs, I really like about half of them.  As their first album in over more than 15 years, I'm labeling Three Stripes a successful comeback!

The guys were on Power 105.1's Breakfast Club recently discussing the BET miniseries, their new album and more..





..According to Johnny Gill, new New Edition is also on the way!

Meanwhile, click HERE to purchase Three Stripes on iTunes.

BET's The New Edition Story [Trailer and Playlist]



BET aired a three-part miniseries depicting the decades long career of the R&B group New Edition last week.  And it is a HIT!!

The New Edition Story begins with 4 little boys that grew up together in the Orchard Park projects in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts; the original New Edition members: Bobby Brown, Michael Givens, Ralph Tresvant and Ricky Bell.  Through the story we find out how the group grew to 5-members with the addition of their manger's nephew, Ronnie DeVoe and ultimately to a total of 6 (sometimes 5--long story.Watch the miniseries!) members when Washington D.C. native, Johnny Gill, joined in time for their third studio album.

The greatest takeaway from this biopic, for me, is the love the members have for one another regardless of all else.  The depiction of grand success achieved together, and within that story, a sub story of a single member's personal issues that threaten that success and the dilemma these young men were faced with of whether to throw their brother off the ship or all drown.  As well as the rise of individual members that reached solo success that many would say overshadowed any prior success the group achieved as a collective unit.  All of the setbacks with personal issues and games played by music executives, as well as step ups as the group gains notoriety and a keen sense for how to best navigate the industry are displayed in The New Edition Story and in the end, the boys that grew into men before their fans' eyes have forgiven past transgressions and have a genuine love and camaraderie for one another.

All of the love, the struggles, hardwork and dedication that created New Edition in the late 70's and to this day maintains the group is relayed so well through this miniseries.

BET got it so right with this biopic!  (It really touched my soul.) Great production and an awesome cast!

If you have not yet watched The New Edition Story (and what I've written so far still hasn't convinced you to do so), here is a trailer to whet that appetite:





And y'all know there is no denying the solid hits the men of New Edition has a a group as well as individuals and (one) smaller group.  So, click HERE to jam to the Ultimate NE Playlist on Apple Music.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

"Nasty Woman" Original Poem by Nina Mariah •• Performed At the Women's March by Ashley Judd


Ashley Judd recited a good ole NASTY!!! poem titled "Nasty Woman" during the Women's March held in Washington, D.C. the day following Trump's Inauguration.  The poem received loads of praise and came as a bit of a surprise that Ashley had "it" (the words and lyricist-esque abilities) in her!  And then it also came as no surprise when Judd gave the author of the poem, a teen by the name of Nina Donovan (Mariah), a shoutout for her great work.




Video of Nina Mariah performing her original piece, "Nasty Woman":





And in case you missed Ashley Judd's performance: