Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Hanging with the dinosaurs

As if I wasn't tired of packing, suitcases, and hotels, William and I decided that it was time for a mini get-away, just the two of us. No kids. And so we explored Utah and a new national park that neither of us had ever visited- the Dinosaur Park in Vernal, Utah. But that's not all we saw, which I'll get to in a moment. Just a quick summary: we had a great time. Exploring the world is intensely fabulous. But exploring my own back yard is also really fabulous (and a heck of a lot cheaper!).

First, we got to Vernal and checked into our hotel room, the Dinosaur Inn. It was actually recently renovated and very fresh and cute. Then we walked into what looked like a dive Mexican restaurant. Oh no, it was no dive-- it was so cute and adorable and delicious. Dang, I wish I could remember the name of it but it's almost directly across the street from the movie theatre.

Visitors wander along the upper mezzanine at the Quarry Exhibit Hall.

After lunch, we went to the Dinosaur National Monument, which is a national park. I'm not sure what we were expecting but it was "unexpected." We took a short tram to what looked like a visitor center (the only way up is via the tram; one must park at the true visitor's center at the park's base). When we walked into the building, it really encased an enormous wall in which thousands of dinosaur bones were captured a few billion years ago. Apparently, many dinos died because of severe drought. Eventually rains wiped the remains down the hill and lodged them against a stone-type wall. And there we see now a virtual burial site of dinosaur bones. It was really unbelievable. I learned something new: Dinosaurs and humans/homo sapiens never lived on Earth at the same time. With the exception of a few small mammals (like rats/mice), no other larger mammals ever shared the earth with dinosaurs. Perhaps nothing larger could diversify and flourish when dinosaurs were the top of the food chain. Who knows, just speculation. In fact, some 1.5 billion years separated the two.

Afterwards, we went and explored the Dry Fork Petroglyphs nearby. There were several sites to stop and walk or hike up for the best views. I literally had no idea that Utah was home to some of these amazing places! This state is literally amazing and awe inspiring. If I ever doubt God's existence (and this doesn't happen often, I have to admit), all I need to do is get out into nature and it removes all doubt.

The next morning, we got up early and drove to find Moonshine Arch. This was really incredibly hard to find and we were the only two people who were there (kind of spooky, honestly!). Off the highway, one must look for a dirt road. The problem is, the dirt road is totally unmarked and almost invisible from the highway. I mean we were looking for it and still drove past it three times before we found it. After you get off on the dirt road, it splits and there is no sign at all on which way one should drive. And there is literally nothing out there but beautiful rock formations and trees (and, I imagine, SNAKES!!!). We veered left. Then the road split again, but there was a rusting brown sign that pointed us to the arch, and then another sign that was almost invisible and then... nothing. We sort of just guessed our way there. It was just a mile's hike but almost straight up hill. Thank goodness we left early before extreme heat set in. Well, it was all worth the effort because the arch was literally breathtaking. Pictures don't do it justice. It is so silent and serene up there. No sounds from the roads or people. Nothing except the rustling of leaves from the many bunnies running around. I didn't see any snakes, thank goodness.

And, finally, we stopped at the Flaming Gorge Dam. Not as big as the Hoover Dam but incredibly impressive and beautiful. It is at the Green River and in the heart of the Ashley National Forest (I can add to the list of forests that I've visited, yay!). We took a tour and lots of photos, and purchased a magnet for a souvenir.

On our way back, right over the Wyoming border, we purchased loads of fireworks for the 4th of July. For the first time in three years, we'll actually be home for the 4th. And then on July 10, we fly to Long Beach for a few weeks, then home for a few days, then off to Montana and Canada. Whooo... that pretty much takes care of our entire summer. And, hard to believe, school again and structure. I'm dreading it.

Today, Morgan is at soccer camp all week. She leaves the house at 8AM and doesn't get home until almost 10PM, no joke. Siena was at a girls craft camp for a big chunk of the day (thanks to my parents who play taxi driver while William and I are gone!), and tomorrow, I think we'll spend the day at a water park to stay as cool as possible.

Because I took almost a three week break from the Dex-Velcade maintenance therapy for myeloma, I have yet to re-experience the intense side effects from my treatment. Since I picked up where I left off last Friday, I know that the side effects will return but, for now, very little. Chemo brain? Nope. Intense fatigue? Not too bad at all. Fuzzy feeling? Non existent. I think I'm functioning really well. My legs and feet tingle and are numb but, really, I can't complain. Other than NEVER walking around barefoot, it doesn't prohibit me from doing anything. I take Thalidomide late at night and so I sleep off that side effect (it makes one incredibly tired). Seriously, all things considered, I really can't complain. At least not today.

Oh, but two more GREAT things happened just prior to leaving for our mini trip! I have to share and I can't believe I almost forgot...

On Monday, I went to the Sage Leaf Spa at Thanksgiving Point (my ultimate Happy Place), which is in the same beautiful building that I attend Bikram Yoga for a 90-minute facial. It is THE BEST facial on the planet! And, this time was no exception. Well, there was some very minor knocking due to some construction. It didn't bother me at all and I dressed and was leaving a very happy girl. On my way out, the receptionist stopped me. They gave me a $110 gift card as a "sorry"! I told them that it was completely unnecessary but, really, I couldn't return the gift card! Yay! My next facial is FREE.

And, this is the best gift EVER, and I will soon write an entire article about this for the web site, in which I will post a link here to it in its entirety when it's ready. But, quick summary, my Thalidomide retails at over $7,500 per month. Insurance pays a huge chunk of it but I have a $5,000 annual deductible so I pay a lot for that medication for the first couple months and then, deductible met, it's free for the rest of the year. I met my deductible in mid February. Except, as of June 1, I was placed on Medicare. I purchased the premium gap plan and it's quite a good insurance actually. As good as what I had before and in some respects better. Except I now have a new deductible to meet. I knew that I would pay out $5,000 in medical costs in June and July before I met my new deductible, which would only be good until December 31. And on January 1, 2015, I would need to start working towards meeting my new deductible. That's $15,000 in co-pays in about 15 months. ... Ok, I know this is a long story but stay with me. On Friday when I went to clinic, my coordinator explained to me that there are grant programs for people like me that help pay for drugs. We started off with the first of three and I was approved for a $10,000 grant! They don't send me a check, rather, an approval code. When I go fill the prescription at the Huntsman Cancer Institute's pharmacy, I give them that code and they go directly and bill the organization. My co-pay is ZERO. The grant is good for one calendar year and then I simply get a grant for the next year. Oh my gosh-- no more co-pays for Thalidomide?!? My doctor is saying he plans to take me off of drugs at my 2-year maintenance anniversary. However, I want to stay on one medication and, if I get a pick, I pick Thalidomide. And if I get my way, it's nice to know that I won't be paying THROUGH THE NOSE in co-pays! So for my article for, I will share the granting organizations for any of you cancer warriors who need the help, too. And, no, you don't need to be nearly financially destitute to qualify. This is a great huge help! Thank you to my angels at HCI who are forever watching out for me.

Ok, I'm off. In a few days I'm taking William and his daughter to the airport for their trip to Seattle and picking them up next Tuesday. We can then just spend a few days together before I leave for LA on Thursday. I love summers because I get to call the shots as far as scheduling goes.