Friday, January 3, 2014

The Year that Sucked

Without a doubt about it, 2013 sucked for me - the worst on record and yet in some ways it's been fantastic. It started out ok... I was riding a high from visiting Antarctica with my dear friends Paul and Meg in a tiny sailboat in Nov/Dec 2012. Then Maverick's was called in January! I love shooting the surfers at Mavericks so even though the waves weren't spectacular it was a beautiful day out on the ocean and life was good.

But I just wasn't feeling right. Finally in March, I was diagnosed with cancer. Not the kind you just trim off and go about your day... this is the bad kind. I listened to all the apologies from the doctors as they told me the cancer has spread throughout my body - I'm not a candidate for surgery or radiation, about all they could offer was chemotherapy. The pity in their eyes and sorrow in the voices said it all.  And so I started chemo... I knew it would be bad but I wasn't prepared for just HOW bad. In one day ALL of my hair fell out. I was lucky to be able to move form the bed upstairs to the couch and on the rare days I could stand long enough to shower I doomed myself to sleeping for the next 12 hours. The nausea was debilitating but the medications to suppress it were worse. Then my doctor discovered that I have a rare genetic mutation that makes one of the drugs I was on completely toxic to me. I moved to a new regimen and while chemo still sucked... it sucked less.

I found myself able to take short walks to the dog park with my dog and husband. There I found some wonderful wildlife - a family of grebes nested on my favorite lake and group of raccoons came out to play. I got my camera in my hands once again and it felt great.

A little while later I received a call from a friend "Get down here, there's a family of coyote in my back yard!" this was the first time I had left the city since starting chemo, the first time my friend saw me standing up and walking (admittedly more dragging than walking). As promised he brought me to his coyote family and I immediately forgot how sick I felt and stalked the animals until I got a shot. A hawk joined me that day too, showing off a gopher he caught. I slept the entire drive home - don't worry, Lee was behind the wheel - but I felt good, hopeful.

 Traveling a bit further afield I rediscovered my love of the Point Reyes National Seashore. Mule deer, Tule elk, more coyote and even an ugly turkey vulture came out to play.

A quick visit to Oregon introduced me to the cutest and fattest little ground squirrels you've ever met as well as a lovely view of the Phantom Ship and Wizard Island  in Crater Lake.

I got to play with a drone and took some fun shots of a lighthouse up the coast - I hope to play more with this type of work and just have to install my gimbal head which arrived today - wish me luck!

I went on assignment for the National Wildlife Federation - documenting the monarch butterfly migration for a book being written by the lovely and talented Beth Pratt.

Finally I was given a break from chemo over Christmas. I still have neuropathy, which makes it difficult for me to hold my camera… difficult but not impossible. At the same time I was also introduced to a young filmmaker, Sebastian Kleppe and spent a lovely day in Point Reyes photographing elk.

I have no idea how long I've got, maybe a year, maybe five - I'll be headed into drug trials next month - but every day I have with my friends and family and a camera in my hand is a good one that I plan to treasure. I hope that your 2014 holds many days for you to treasure as well.