Reflections of Geese …. and Face Masks

October 12, 2020- In honor of Mom’s 84th Birthday-Given to the family with love ~ Dee

Nearly every day I hear and see flocks of geese flying overhead. We have lived near a river for over 20 years and so daily sightings of geese are common.

Each time I hear and see them I pause and smile. And I wonder…..

Grandma Wheatley’s favorite living things were birds….especially geese.  Each day her routine consisted of eating breakfast at her kitchen window and watching all the birds in her yard.  No matter where we were with her, she would stop and pause in her tracks every time a flock of geese flew overhead and she would exclaim, with hands clasped to her chest “Oh, aren’t they just beautiful. Listen to them. I just love them!”. Grandma put an intimate meaning to the phrase “goose bumps”. 

Some years ago I found  information on goose symbolism –  

If you want something done – give it to the Goose. Persevering, dogged, and ambitious to a fault, the Goose sets goals for accomplishment, and always obtains them. The goose is determined to succeed at all cost – not for the approval of others – but those with this Native American animal symbol competes with his/her own internal foe. Driven is the watchword for the Goose’s dominating personality trait – which makes them excellent in business and competitive sports. When tempered with supportive, nurturing family and friends, the Goose excels in all things he/she attempts. In a loving environment the Goose can be very passionate, humorous, and gregarious.Here are some attributes of the goose:* Communication* Determination* Fellowship* Teamwork*
* Confidence* Protection* Bravery* LoyaltyGeese are incredibly gifted navigators and instinctively know the way across the long haul to warmer climates. They forge ahead with confidence and bravery. Lessons we all can learn from our totem geese include:     * Remember your roots – don’t forget the people who helped you along the way
    * Follow your gut – rely on intuition and instinct in order to get where you need to   be
    * Communicate your needs to others – no one can help you if you don’t speak out
    * Protect that which is most valuable, but make sure you have your priorities straight      (meaning, be sure you’re protecting that which is worth protecting).

All of this is very fitting for who Grandma was.  She was steadfast and brave (always forging ahead no matter what the risks or obstacles), driven by her confidence to succeed.  She was very good at business affairs and definitely was a communicator (in many ways….). She raised her own child, our Mom,  with these attributes, which carried Mom over into her own adult life and on to us,her children.  Grandma was a protector, always stating that she would defend anything or anyone who came in harm’s way of her “babies”.  She had an uncanny sense of intuition that led her – and us – on many creative and adventurous paths.  Grandma was definitely a leader and inspiration to everyone who knew her. Grandma and Mom were very much like sisters. Caring for (and yes even arguing with) each other like sisters and always watching out for their babies. 

The year of 2020 has been filled with events and circumstances that have resulted in loss and uncertainty. Mom’s transition is etched in our repository of 2020 memories of the year, along with the reflection of lifetime memories that have come to surface.  Recently I embarked on creating face masks out of colorful, durable fabric that had been used as sacks for flour and grain that Grandma had saved from her young adulthood and later gave to me. As was common during that time Grandma made clothes from the fabric. During the 2020 pandemic it dawned on me that it was time to get this fabric out of storage and make face masks and drawstring bags to store the masks. I used thread and ribbon from Mom’s sewing supplies that she had used in her own creating.  In a sense, the face masks I have made are Grandma’s ways of protecting her babies in these adverse times and a reminder of the durability of Mom’s soul who endured so much in her life, but always found beauty in life around her. 

I was showing what I had made to a friend and explaining the history of the fabric and suddenly two geese flew by. I looked at my friend and told her how much Grandma adored geese. My friend gasped. We paused. I couldn’t help but wonder if the two geese that flew by were Grandma and Mom in what Mom might call a “fly over”. 

Each day when I hear these flying beauties I wonder if Grandma is among them. I wonder if Mom is flying with her and I wonder if they are watching over and protecting us – and each time I hear the honk of these geese, a sense of peace comes over me.  And somehow I know that Grandma and Mom are indeed with us in many ways more beyond our memories.

On the occasion of Mom’s 84th birthday, may we feel her warmth, love, comfort, reassurance and protection, influenced by Grandma, as we wear or display our face masks….and hear the sounds of geese flying overhead! 

FU Skin Cancer: Round 2, Week 3

The first two weeks of round 2 did not yield much results.  Then….BAM!!!!

The top two photos are from January 5 and the bottom two from January 6.  My scalp skin is rapidly changing and eroding.  Itchy and painful more so each day.

Only 1 1/2 weeks until application of the medicine stops.  Then at least another month of healing, when the skin continues to erode before it gets better.

Shaving the scalp *definitely* has helped.  Application is much easier.  I highly recommend this to anyone who has hair having to apply this treatment to their scalp.

I tell people my scalp looks like a big red fireball.  Or a lizard head.





FU Skin Cancer: Round 2

After my first round of FU-5, I was so happy after a few more weeks that I could uncover my head!

Then I went for my follow up visit to my dermatologist only to find out that what I thought were scabs on my head from the treatment were more lesions.  Ugh!

So here I am in round 2 of chemotherapy cream with an added cream called Differin (used to treat acne), to add an extra layer of aggression to get rid of the skin cancer once and for all!  I hope anyway. This time, 4 weeks application and 4 weeks healing.

Since my husband is the one who actually applies the chemicals ( and in round 1 a lot of the cream gunked up in my hair) what we decided to do different this time was to shave my scalp, to make it easier to apply. I am hppy to report that it is *much* easier and takes way less time.  Since I choose to wear caps and scarves anyway, even with hair, no one will notice. We only shaved the scalp and not the rest of the head. Photos below on day 1.





As with round 1 treatment, I will post periodically on the progress.

FU Skin Cancer!

When it rains it pours, but….

Since the day I turned 60 in July of this year, I have had one health issue after another with no reprieve from pain and discomfort.  Beginning with my back when I experienced a “discogenic episode” that lasted for nearly 6 months until I felt human again.  These “episodes” seem to be occurring once per year now.

During this time I had to also address skin cancer on my scalp that keeps popping up (my friend calls it “popcorn”), since November of 2018. I embarked on my first journey of chemotherapy cream to my scalp for 3 weeks with another 3 weeks of “healing”. Only it didn’t work.

Which brings me to the present.  The last two weeks have been what I call “Murphy’s Law” weeks, beginning with the news that the scalp treatment failed. And so I have to do a second round, only this time more aggressively, adding a second chemical to help it “get angry”. Not exactly what I wanted to hear. So I have shaved my scalp to make it easier to apply and am back to wearing caps and scarves.

Next, I decided to get my toe examined by a podiatrist as I had been having pain in it for probably a couple of years, but had become pretty excruciating.  Well lo and behold the joint is “bone on bone” and I have to get it fused and a bone spur taken care of as well. The surgery will take place in February of 2020 and I will have to wear a knee high boot for two months! And just when I had got back to a walking routine. Ugh.

When it rains it pours.

I have had systemic osteoarthritis for most of my adult life (I believe it onset as a teen, but no official diagnoses until my late 20’s). First my knees (4 surgeries on one of them), then my spine, then my shoulders, and my jaw.  Yes, my jaw.  70% bone loss when I first went to get it examined. And now my toe. I suspect it is in my hand and my other foot, but one thing at a time.

Yes, when it rains it pours.

During the most recent health issues, my family is also dealing with the issues of aging parents, most recently my mother’s fall resulting in hospitalization and now some months to be in a healthcare unit in the facility where she was in assisted living.  She actually has a fracture in her leg, but surgery is too risky due to other health concerns so she is confined to a wheelchair for two months to see if the fracture heals on its own.

So while when it rains it pours is such an appropriate idiom for these events, my mother put things in perspective the other day when I was conversing with her.

“Well,” she said, “I can think of worse things than spending the rest of my life in wheelchair.” (I’m thinking, seriuosly????).  Now mind you, my mother is 83 years old and has spent her entire life in and out of hospitals and doctor’s offices.  She even was the subject of a 20 year study at a medical research facility.  She has probably had more than half of her days in her life not well. She deserves to be depressed, angry and in despair.  And she has gone through those periods.  But she always bounces back with this kind of perspective,sending me into a figurative shock.

She even has a joke ready to tell the doctors in the surgical suites whenever she has to have surgery, so that she goes under laughing at them laughing in the hopes of awakening in a happy way.

So yes, when it rains it pours.  But things can always be worse, in the words of my mother. I am not minimizing the pain and emotional upset when we are dealing with our own issues. It’s o.k. to feel that way. It’s all relative to our unique situations.  But it sure feels good to hear a loved one take on a perspective that keeps us alive in hope.

I’ve got my umbrella up, ready for the next storm.

Thank you mama.

FU Skin Cancer – week 3

Day 22 was my last application.  43 applications and the scalp has eroding lesions in spots.  Right on schedule.  Now the work of the treatment continues over the next 3 weeks.





Here is an archive of the progession of my scalp in week 3.

FU Skin Cancer – week 2

Day 8





Day 9





Day 10 – and away we go!  The redness is starting and spreading.





Day 11





Day 13 – Panic! It appeared that I had enough in the tube to last the three weeks.  But today when we went to squeeze the cream out of the tube, nothing but air came out, leaving barely enough for one more application – yikes! Of course this was a Friday night.  I ended up calling the resident dermatologist on call and she immediately called in a refill (there were no refills on the original tube – should have been enough to do the job!).  Whew.

Days 12 and 14 – not a lot of change. Increased itching, that’s about it.


Skin Cancer Perspectives

It is interesting how your perspective of things change over time.

A home screen photo appeared on my work computer the other day.  It was a beautiful photo of a pristine spot with cliffs overlooking water and and sand.  The caption read something like “The perfect spot for sun bathing”.

That picture on my home screen would have looked so very appealing once upon a time. Now, it makes me want to scream.

Becoming a skin cancer victim has definitely put me into advcoacy mode, in an attempt to educate others on the dangers of sun exposure. If only I had known….

However there are ways to advocate and there are ways to not advocate and educate. If someone had continually hammered on me about being out in the sun oh those many years ago, I would not have listened. Maybe I would have with the right approach.

This article sums up what it’s like to be an advocate, and what to do to work works “changing minds and touching hearts”. I have included some excerpts.

Skin Cancer Advocacy: A Work in Progress

Recently, I’ve tried looking at my photos from the perspective of a person who has never been diagnosed with skin cancer. I am beginning to see why so many people continue to tan, hit the beach without sunscreen, and neglect to wear protective clothing while making sure their children are covered head-to-toe. The “my-skin-looks-nothing-like-that” vibe is strong. Truthfully, they aren’t wrong in their thinking-they are only judging from what they see.

Photos like the ones I share show the impact of treatments and the side effects obvious to the eye. They don’t always show the skin prior to the first treatment. I’m willing to bet a vast majority of people who take a long look at photos of Efudex patients believe they are seeing the skin cancer itself. Our raw, blistered and crusted sores are intimidating. At the same time, they might just give observers false confidence. When they do a silent self-assessment, they will always feel relief–”None of my moles or spots look like that; I don’t have skin cancer.”

FU Skin Cancer – week 1

I will be chronicling my Flouracil journey in photos. The first 21 days involve application of the medicine twice per day.  The weeks after that are the healing process.

My husband has been applying it for me.

Week 1

There wasn’t much activity as far as changes to the skin on my scalp. Although I took daily photos I have only included day 1 and the last day of week 1 for comparison, plus the scarves I wore throughout the week.

I dread the thought of being in discomfort, but I hope this is working and would like to see a sign that it is. I did read that it can take a couple of weeks for symptoms to appear.

Day 1





Day 2




Day 3





Day 4





Day 5

My “FU” Journey with Flourouracil

I began my journey with Flourouracil today, October 27, 2019. Flourouracil is a chemotherapy cream used to treat pre-cancer and cancer lesions on the skin.

Between November, 2018 and July 2019 I had five malignancies on my head – one on my forehead and four  on my scalp – each one Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Each time required first the biopsy, then the waiting, then the diagnosis, then the Electrodesiccation and curettage (EDC – or as I call it, “scrape and burn technique”) to get rid of the cancer cells. My scalp looks like a battle zone with all the scar tissue.

After the fifth malignancy, my dermatologist said “We have to stop carving up your scalp.  Let’s try this cream.” I had read about this treatment but not that I was to use it I did a lot more research so as to be well prepared. Although every individual reacts differently to the treatment , It’s not pretty and it’s not free of pain and discomfort. But the success rate is very high.

I find it quite humorous that the abbreviated  name for this cream is “5-FU”, especially the “FU” part (The “5” is representative of the percent of Flouracil in the cream.).  Yeah, “FU” skin cancer!

Using the tag “flourouracil” I will be creating a chronicle of this first (and hopefully only) journey with Flourouracil treatment. WARNING:  I will incorporate photos of my scalp which are likely to become unsightly.

My hope is that my sharing my experiences, those who read my accounts will know the dangers of sun exposure, practice protection from UV rays, and will spread the word.

Now, on with Flourouracil and adorning my head with scarves and caps!



Climate Change and Skin Cancer

Now that I am deeper into the world of skin cancer, the activist in me cannot help but research the linkage between climate change and skin cancer.

Here is what I have found so far.

An article on NBC Washing, April 22, 2019:

Changing Climate May Contribute to Increase in Skin Cancer

The World Health Organization predicts a 10% increase in skin cancer incidence among the U.S. population by 2050

“Scientists expect the combined effect of recent stratospheric ozone depletion and its continuation over the next 1-2 decades to be (via the cumulation of additional UVB exposure), an increase in skin cancer incidence in fair-skinned populations living at mid to high latitudes (3). The modelling of future ozone levels and UVR exposures study has estimated that, in consequence, a ‘European’ population living at around 45 degrees North will experience, by 2050, an approximate 5% excess of total skin cancer incidence (assuming, conservatively, no change in age distribution). The equivalent estimation for the US population is for a 10% increase in skin cancer incidence by around 2050.”