Tuesday, February 19, 2013

my new photography portfolio

Since last summer, I've been exerting a lot of mental muscle and time on a new website for my photography.  This online portfolio will serve as the primary space where I will be able to share my images with the world.  After such a tedious and at times, tiresome process, I'm happy to share it with you: www.duanebaileycastro.com

You might recall that I once had a portfolio website, but I allowed it to expire after it became apparent that its layout and design were too rigid and difficult for long term use and expansion.  After months of searching the Web for a suitable replacement, I finally found a company whose templates I enjoyed.  I, then, made the plunge.

In addition to my new website, I also have a companion blog where I will share my thoughts and observations about my photographic development, work, and travelThus, I have two separate platforms: one dedicated to my cancer journey and the other to my photography.

As it relates to my cancer blog, before today I hadn't made a post since August.  Nevertheless, everything in my cancer world is stable and fine.  My GvHD remains the same.  Work is progressing well.  Just very busy.  Grad school has also been good.  Thankfully, there is no new news to report. 

Hoping everyone is well. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

hyper-pigmentation skin update

Yesterday morning I had a follow-up appointment with my dermatologist at MSKCC.  Since applying Tretinoin cream to my chest and back about four weeks ago, my parents and I have noticed a significant improvement in the clarity and consistency of my skin.  One consequence of the GVHD outbreak was that my back and chest and my face, thankfully to much lesser degree, became freckled with hyper-pigmented spots.  There has indeed been progress, but until recently it had been incredibly slow.  Thanks to Tretinoin it seems, both my back and chest have improved much more rapidly. 

Before yesterday, I had been applying Aclovate (Alclometasone Dipropionate) cream to my face.  At the appointment, however, my dermatologist told me to stop using Aclovate and instead, apply Tretinoin cream to my face too once daily at night.

I see him again in early January.  We'll see it there's any further improvement.

Finally, after this appointment, I stopped by my oncologist's clinic office to drop off a brief thank you card that I written to my anonymous donor thanking him for what he did for me five years ago.  His selflessness and courage, I hope he understands, have not been forgotten whoever he may be.

the stem cell transplant/donor process at mskcc

On Cancer: Stem Cell Transplant Experts Discuss the Procedure and How to Become a Stem Cell Donor is a brief review of the donor and stem cell transplant process at MSKCC.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

five years today

Today August 21st marks five years cancer-free since my second stem cell transplant.  In the transplant world, this is my 5th birthday.  Perhaps more significantly, it marks the traditional milestone at which the original cancer's likelihood of returning is believed to be practically non-existent.  Some interpret the crossing of this threshold as "being cured." 

During the thick of my treatment and in the first few years afterwards, five years post-transplant seemed liked a long time away.  But it's here.

This past Friday night, I went karaoking with my sister and a couple of friends.  While I'm always reved up for karaoke, I think I was especially so this time in part because of the milestone approaching.  While I didn't share this sentiment with anyone that night, singing and dancing in celebration felt liberating.

While I myself didn't really do anything to have reached this five year mark, there is no doubt that I wouldn't have made it without the help of so many others, in particular my medical staff, donor, family and closest friends.  I know that this is as much a victory for them as it is for me.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

the revival of NYC's waterfront

This week both the BBC and the NYT had interesting stories about the slow revival of NYC's waterfront.  The focus of the BBC's report is the East River whereas the NYT report looks at the Bronx River.  While the Harlem River wasn't addressed, efforts at its continued restoration fit within this wider context of rehabilitating all the waters around NYC. 

hyphenated couples (and their kids)

A friend passed along the following recent NPR story - "When Hyphen Boy Meets Hyphen Girl, Names Pile Up" - about the potentially vexing question of what happens when two hyphenated individuals marry and/or have children. In reading the comments, it seems the Spanish-tradition of surnames is most practical.  Naming one's child shouldn't be this hard.  Should it?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

coming on 5 years

Next month will mark five years since my second and last transplant and this September will begin my fourth year teaching.  Incredible.  (Not to mention this past May was my ten-year college reunion!)

I had my annual PET scan, which showed no evidence of disease, about two weeks ago.  With regard to Hodgkin's Lymphoma, my doctor doesn't think that it will return.  He has mentioned this to me  at least once before.  I agree.  I am not overly concerned about it returning although I must admit that I do - though rarely - think about the risk of a secondary cancer and/or toxicity to my vital organs like the liver.  I continue to take a daily cocktail of meds of which the immunosuppressive, Tacrolimus, remains the most important.   He told me that for now my dosages will remain the same.  Meddling in the tricky art of tapering isn't on his agenda right now.  I have suffered twice from previous attempts to lower my Tacro level.  There is no active GvHD.  All is quiet.  Let sleeping dogs lie.

And I return to teaching middle school social studies and current events after Labor Day.  Three years have passed since this journey began.  Three years feeling liberated from the bubble of post-recovery.  This summer I'm taking one course towards my master's program.  I had planned to take two, but I think it's working out better this way.  One is enough.

Aside from this one course, I have a small number of projects that I'm working on.  First, I'm working on a new website portfolio to display my photographic work.  It's my hope to have it up by the end of the summer.  At the same time, I continue to go on shoots around the city.  The Harlem River and its bridges continues to draw me to its shores.  Thirdly, I have a bit of preparatory work I need to do with regard to the upcoming school year.   And finally, I'm trying to get back in shape and give my body and mind the kind of rest that - at times - I haven't been very good at offering.

I want to thank all of you for your continued interest and support during this remarkable voyage.  While I don't blog as often as I used to I'm still here pushing forward grateful for all your love.

Wishing you all a fruitful summer! 

skin care guide

It is wonderful to be on summer vacation, but continual concern about limiting the health risks posed by sun exposure isn't the most exciting thing to do.  After suffering from a serious GvHD flare-up last year, I've had to be even more careful about my activities outside.

I saw my MSKCC dermatologist, Dr. Lacoutoure, for a check-up last week.  I thanked him for his recommendations - Nail Lacquer, Biotin 2500, and BioSil - at our previous appointment, which improved the strength and appearance of my nails incredibly.  We had an open and productive conversation about my skin care with respect to the summer and post-GvHD.

It so happens that he also has a recently published book that is available: Dr. Lacoutoure's Skin Care Guide for People Living with Cancer.  It promises to be a rich and useful resource for survivors of various cancers looking for information about how best to take care of their skin and nails.