Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Seattle, Washington, USA

After our week long Alaska cruise, we docked in Seattle relatively early in the morning on Saturday 9th May. We were so exhausted from a very late night in Victoria BC that we didn't even feel the ship docking. We had requested the 9am disembark time to avoid mad the rush.

We dropped our luggage at our hotel, The Westin, and took the local monorail to the Space Needle which is 520 ft high and has spectacular 360 degree views all over Seattle and the waterways. 

After taking many photos, we lunched on hot dogs and Dr Pepper, like true Americans, before returning to the monorail, and passing via See's Candies en route to the hotel.
The Westin has views over Puget Sound and we watched the MS Westerdam as she sailed away at 6pm on her next Alaskan cruise.

Before sunset we took a taxi to Kerry Park, which is on a high point overlooking downtown Seattle, with snow topped Mount Rainier as a backdrop. I joined dozens of photographers with their tripods set up waiting for sunset & blue hour. It was extremely cold, and my parents and aunt patiently waited while I did what any good photographer does and captured images until the end of blue hour. I was relatively happy with the results considering it was quite overcast and Mount Rainier wasn't visible at all (however, that part was disappointing). 

We then took a taxi back to the Space Needle (this is where the young hang out at night) for some night shots before returning to the Hotel, frozen and starving, at about 11pm. I rather liked this bokeh shot of the city lights...

The next morning was my Mum's birthday (as well as Australian Mother's Day) and we had a complimentary  breakfast before heading off to explore more of the city . 

Seattle's Great Wheel is identical to Brisbane's Wheel. We managed to get some great views from our little gondola.

The Seattle Aquarium is a public aquarium which opened in 1977 and is located on Pier 59 on the Elliott Bay waterfront.

Police boat putting on a show...

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Australian National Chronic Pain Week 2015

As Australian National Chronic Pain Week comes to a close, I wanted to share my story...

Chronic Pain... no one really understands its severity and its effect on your life, unless they are sufferers themselves. Not only must you live with ongoing chronic pain on a daily basis, but you must also grieve the loss of so much more; the loss of  your old life, your productivity & often the ability to work, your independence, your friends, (sometimes even your family)...

Amidst intense feelings of isolation and anxiety, you try to make sense of the life you have lost. You grasp at threads of  hope that any new treatment may be "the answer" to regaining some sense of "normality". You become a master of disguise, an expert in the illusion of appearing "fine" when, in reality, you feel as if your life is unravelling. Effective communication is difficult. Firstly, because Chronic Pain is so grossly misunderstood, and judgement is often a product of this misunderstanding. Secondly, some of the medications used to treat certain forms of Chronic Pain can cause severe "brain fog", which often affects "word memory" and makes articulation difficult.

I am a 50 year old "Chronic Pain" sufferer. According to my medical team, my pain story is a "very complex" one as I suffer from numerous conditions, many of which are totally unrelated.

I was born with the gene HLAB-27, including a strong family history, which made me susceptible to Axial Spondyloarthritis; a degenerative autoimmune inflammatory arthritis that mostly affects the spine & sacroiliac joints... I was diagnosed at age 20. Aside from the characteristic spine and sacroiliac joint pain, bulging spinal discs and some knee & shoulder surgeries, I was well treated and had successfully learned how to deal with the chronic pain flares of the disease. I raised my children on my own and worked full-time to support my family. That however isn't my only chronic pain condition... I also suffer from  Chronic Neuropathic Pain Syndrome and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).

In November 2009, I had an "at fault" car accident... In an instant, my world was to be changed forever. I sustained joint injuries to my neck, shoulder, arm, hip and leg, including nerve injuries down my entire right side. It wasn't entirely evident at first, but a few months later, it was very clear that things were much worse and more long term than originally thought. Due to the severe nerve injuries from the car accident, I developed widespread Chronic Neuropathic Pain Syndrome and, more recently, I have been diagnosed with lower limb Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) after surgery to my right foot & knee in November 2014. Both of these conditions are complicated by my Axial Spondyloarthritis.

I was forced to leave the workforce, as it was hard to get time off work for my treatment and it became more and more difficult to drive without extreme pain due to my injuries. My doctors encouraged me to apply for a Disability Pension. I didn't think I would be approved, but due to the nature (and number) of my conditions, I was approved immediately. It took almost 2 years to gain the more specific diagnoses and to find the best specialists to treat my conditions.
Since November 2009, my life has changed dramatically... countless daily medications, regular weekly medical appointments/treatments, numerous regular tests, x-rays, scans and MRI's, 6 surgeries and tens-of-thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses.

While I may look normal on the outside, the reality of the combination of Chronic Neuropathic Pain Syndrome and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is that my central nervous system is basically at war with itself. This makes treatment extremely difficult. My entire nervous system has become highly sensitive to stimuli from inside and outside my body; my body is in a constant state of severe burning, tingling & throbbing pain, including extreme sensitivity to even the lightest touch.

In addition to the above, I also suffer from Labile Hypertension, Prinzmetal's Angina (Coronary Artery Spasm), and I was recently diagnosed with Coronary Artery Disease (genetic, not dietary related).

I have a large care team consisting of GP, Musculoskeletal Doctor, Pain Specialist, Rheumatologist, Cardiologist, Neurologist, Haematologist, Shoulder Surgeon, Knee & Foot Surgeon, Spinal Surgeon, Physiotherapist, Occupational Therapist & Psychologist. I have lost much of my independence and I am unable to drive more than 15 mins from home, once or twice a week. It has been a challenging journey, but I am blessed to have such a great medical team who are all on the same page. I am also blessed to have the support of my wonderful husband and some of my family. 

One of my toughest struggles has been coping with the unnecessary judgement from others due to lack of knowledge and understanding.
When your friends or loved ones don't understand or comprehend, it can severely impact relationships and lead to isolation. The most difficult task is to successfully encourage those people to educate themselves about your conditions. It's not pity you are after, but merely love, understanding, compassion and acceptance.You are struggling enough to reconcile and accept the difference between who you once were and who you are now with your current abilities; you don't need the pressure of unrealistic expectations & judgement from others.

"Before you assume, learn the facts. 

Before you judge, understand why. 

Before you speak, think." ~ Unknown

Other than the medications and treatments of my medical team, there is one thing that has been invaluable to my life... GRATITUDE. 
Any time I find myself in a negative state of mind, I bring my mind back to the things I am grateful for and the blessings I have in my life. Although I have lost much, I still have more! For that I am truly grateful!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Serenity by the Lake

I've been on a forced break from posting (again) due to recent surgery. I am now recovering very slowly, but will be having more surgery in the next few weeks. I haven't been able to continue editing my images from my holiday to the USA, so I'm sharing some images from earlier in the year.

It's hard to imagine that only a few weeks before I took these, much of this lake was almost dry... In the 25 years I have lived in Brisbane, I have never seen this lake even partially empty.

It's not up to full capacity yet as can be seen by the weeds in the foreground and to the left of centre, but one of my favourite local go-to spots is getting back to how it should be and the wildlife is gradually returning.

The lake is so serene at sunset...

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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Victoria, BC, Canada

On Friday 8th May, we docked in Victoria BC, Canada around 6pm and disembarked soon after. We were only the second ship in dock that evening.

Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia, Canada, and is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island off Canada's Pacific coast. The city has a population of about 80,017, while the metropolitan area of Greater Victoria, has a population of 344,615, making it the 15th most populous Canadian urban region. Known as the "The Garden City", Victoria is an attractive city and a popular tourism destination with a thriving technology sector that has risen to be its largest revenue-generating private industry.

Coming in to dock...

I met up with a photography friend, Rob, who I had met via Instagram a couple of years ago, and have been following ever since. Rob gave me a "local's" private walking tour of the bay area including some history and facts about the area.

Fisherman's Wharf....

Victoria Harbour...

The Fairmont Empress (most commonly known as The Empress) is one of the oldest and most famous hotels in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Located on Government Street facing the Inner Harbour, the Empress has become an iconic symbol for the city itself. It has been designated a National Historic Site of Canada due to its national significance.

The Inner Harbour...

The British Columbia Parliament Buildings, and more, which resulted in some great photos...

The British Columbia Parliament Buildings are located in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada and are home to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Construction was started in 1893 and completed in 1897.

When we returned to the dock around 11pm, it was nice to see the ship with her lights on.

Because my Canon 7D isn't a full-frame camera, my 17-40mm wide angle lens equates to 27-64mm on the crop sensor, and there were fences in the way, my friend Rob took a few shots of the ship for me on his full frame camera. Thanks very much Rob.  :)

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