Five Years Gone…

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Cancer sucks.  It’s completely impartial, affecting young and old alike, and it doesn’t just impact the person fighting the disease, but those around  who witness the impact upon their loved one.

Unfortunately  I’ve seen first hand what it can do, and it’s often terrifying, and not just for the patient. No matter how much people try to break the fear of cancer, it’s a fear that people find hard to shake. But cancer can be beaten; and it’s my belief that the right medical treatments, some holistic care and a bloody good dose of humour can all play a part in beating the bastard into retreat.

It’s not just the disease that patients have to deal with, but also the regimen of treatments that cancer patients have to endure too.  They are complicated and their side-effects can be legion. People who have experience of this disease, (Sadly who doesn’t these days?), often speak of the  battle that they have to fight not just against the disease itself, but the myriad of treatments that wreak havoc against the body.

Cancer patients are brave. I know some dislike the use of that word, but for me there is no alternative. You HAVE to be brave to deal with cancer. There’s no doubt in my mind that to endure a battle against chronic illness takes a special kind of soul, one determined to fight against the cells daring to multiply and rally against the caustic treatments coursing through the veins.

Readers of this blog will know only too well of my beloved friend Dionne Walker (aka DeeDee Fadoodle in SL) who lost her battle against cancer five years ago.  She did as much as she could to beat the Breast Cancer that had spread into her liver, bones and brain, but in the end the fucking thing won out. (Her blog is still live, you can read it here)

The five years that have passed since she died have flown by, but every single day I’m reminded of her.  Not just by the pictures of her that I have dotted around my home, but by little things that I hear every day that raise smiles as I think of her and how she would react. Whenever I hear music by Faithless for example, she’s there. I have her Black Obsidian crystal ball, and each time I pass it she’s there; even a scent or a scene in a film or a written passage on a page can trigger a memory.

You know, for a long time I was cross that she’d gone, and also that she’s never come back and said “Hi”.  I know that sounds very strange, but I always thought if anyone was going to come back and pay me a visit it would be Dee.  (Knowing her, she’d probably jump up in front of me whilst I was taking a dump. Five years of enduring toilet visits anticipating a visit from beyond the grave fair messes with your bowels let me tell you!)

Grief is a strange thing. After the initial shock and raw pain there does come a sort of resolution, of acceptance that someone has gone and they aren’t going to come back. But what I am trying to say is that I have realised that they never, ever go away. We are the ones left behind, the receptacles if you will, of loving memories and thoughts and daydreams  in which our loved ones can (for want of a better phrase) live again. And believe me, in my dreams and imagination she has many, many times.

And she will continue to forever more, until I pop my clogs and wander over to the other side and seek her out and kick her ass for being gone, and then collapse in a fit of giggles because I’m back with my buddy.

Five years is a long time that she’s been physically gone, but in my mind she never, ever left.

I love you Dionne xxx

Pink Dee

I interviewed Dee back in the day for some thoughts on Second Life and using it as a way for managing and dealing with illness. Here are her answers from back then, exactly how she e-mailed them to me. You’ll note she used to call me ‘O’toole’ ; even though we were friends in real life she always used to address my emails in this way once we’d both got into SL. 

Otoole!

These be my answers.. my poor old brain struggled a bit, so I hope they’re ok!

How do you usually spend your time in SL?
Spending money on clothes, hair, and accessories!  It’s a great distraction!
When I’ve spent money, I’ll put on my new glad-rags, go to a bar (or more recently, ice skating!), with my SL buddies, and shake my thang!
And while I haven’t been well enough to go out to a real life bar, with my real life friends, I’ve at least been able to go to an SL bar with them!

How has SL helped you deal with your cancer in RL?
There are cancer support groups in SL, which I’ve only been to a couple of times.  The one I’ve been to does seem like an good place to chat about what’s happening, and it can be good to share how I feel about cancer and the ways it affects me, with others who’re going through similar things.
Real life support groups aren’t really my ‘thing’, and I find it easier to talk about cancer-related issues in an ‘online setting’.
But really, the main way SL has helped me, is by providing a distraction from real life.  It’s good to escape into SL, and away from RL for a while.
I recently had surgery to remove a secondary brain tumour (I was initally diagnosed with breast cancer, in 2005.  And later with liver, bone, and now brain metastasies), and haven’t been able to do much in RL, while I’ve been recovering from the op.  So SL’s been good at keeping me occupied, while I haven’t been able to do much else.

How supportive have you found SL residents when you have told them about your RL diagnosis?
I don’t tend to tell people (it’s not really the kind of thing you announce, when you walk up to someone!), but a brief summary of my RL diagnosis is in my profile.  There have been a few people send me really kind, supportive messages.

What is the most precious item in your inventory?
Ooh, I love my MAC laptop.  But I also have a Shamanic drum, which actually drums.. I really like that too.

What’s the worst thing about SL?
For me, personally, crashes and bugs, which seem to be getting worse and worse.  It’s driving me insane, lately.

What’s your funniest SL sex story?
I don’t really have one!  I’ve never got into the whole SL sex thing.  Although it did make me chuckle when I ended up in ‘Sherwood Forest’, and stumbled across a **** a duck pose!

How do you think SL can best serve it’s users who have RL medical issues?
I feel that support groups in SL have great potential to be a valuable resource and support to people with a variety of RL medical issues.
They enable people from all over the world to come together and discuss their illness, treatments, exchange information, and raise awareness.
RL support groups, whilst they can be invaluable for support, can be somewhat limited to a much smaller group of people, with not such a wide scope of experience.
I feel that both RL and SL groups can play an important part in the lives of people with many illness’.

What’s the one thing that you would change about SL if you could?
Less bugs and less crashes.. especially when I’m trying to buy new goodies, or get to a party!

Talkin’ Horses: Time for some horse sense!

OK- first up is something VERY important; if you’re considering getting into Amaretto horses then you MUST check out what has been released to support Breast Cancer research. For L$1010 you can be the very proud owner of a special edition ‘Save The Tatas!’ horse. Of course you don’t know what sex you’re getting until it’s out of the box, but there are a couple of colour options available: pink or white body with contrasting (pink or white) tail. They sport the breast cancer ribbon emblem on their rump, and each one has a ribbon eye. Not only that, but SOME of them have been coming out of the box sporting long manes and tails…so as you can imagine they’ve proved exceedingly popular, which is great news and means lots of lovely cash going to charity.
Alas, some people are re-selling them already. It looks as though people have bulk bought to try and gain traited horses, and are re-selling the horses they don’t want at a lower price. I’ve seen them going for as low as L$500 already; this doesn’t really sit comfortably with me. Obviously the initial purchase dollars went to charity, but anything further goes to the seller. I think in future special edition horses such as these would be better engineered as no transfer, to avoid re-selling, but if you want one you’d better come quick. Today ( Oct 31) is the last day that you can buy one officially, and I highly recommend that you do. The interesting part is finding out what traits these beauties will be passing on.

I got one, a lovely wee female which I’ve named ‘Deedee’ for obvious reasons. I’m really glad that Amaretto have done this for charity, and I really hope that other breedable companies take note and follow suit. On a more reflective note; I know that Dionne ( Deedee) would have gone absolutely crackers for the Amaretto Breedable Horses had she been here. She loved animals, and owned a horse during her teens. Ever since release day I’ve thought of her in Second Life, with a sim full of horses ( and bunnies, and whatever else she could get her hands on) and I know that, wherever she’s resting now, she’d totally approve.

Moving on to other matters horse related and it was 1.3 update time last week, and for most people, myself included, it seems to have gone without a hitch. It’s an easy process to follow, and takes a matter of minutes to update your horse and reset settings. I couldn’t help thinking of all those people that own hundreds of horses though, updating must be a hellish process for them. But it also got me thinking about why you would want so many horses anyway, and of course the answer to that is ‘To make Money’. We’ve already seen what happens when people breed too much with the Ozimals Bunnies, but it seems we’re already headed for a crash with the horses UNLESS Amaretto can help the community at large prevent it. But what can be done? Already at auction prices are dropping and horses aren’t selling, and this is because the grid is completely saturated, with mares mostly. It’s still not easy to breed a stallion from a small breeding stock; I know this myself since I have only ever managed to breed ONE out of a total of 45 bundles! But what is easy to do, and will help with the problem of over-saturation, is to NOT birth un-traited bundles. I know a few horse breeders in-world are already taking this step, and even deleting bundles too, and I think it’s actually a a very sensible one. There are way too many horses out there for the market to manage folks, we need to (pardon the pun) reign ourselves in.

I myself have been taking bundles into my inventory that aren’t traited, and just leaving them there. It’s no biggie..you don’t need to birth every bundle that’s born. For some people I think birthing has become an addiction, and gives the  phrase ‘Doin’ horse’ a whole different meaning.
Fortunately Amaretto have got wise to this issue sooner rather than later, and included in the update was the option to send your horse to Horse Haven. Like the much promised ‘Bunnybury'( which is about to enter closed Beta at last) Horse Haven isn’t running as yet, but it looks as though it will follow similar guidelines with redeemable tokens issued for bundles or live horses submitted to the scheme. There’s even voting taking place on the official forums as to what these tokens should be called ( ‘Horse Cents’ seems to be the most appropriate name if you ask me!) and I do strongly urge you to log in, vote, and also read what the horse community on teh whole has to say about the idea. It’s great to see a breedable company willing to get stuck in so soon after the product was released and even more inspiring to see that them want to address a pricing crash before it happens. Let’s hope they’ve caught it in time, and that the market will continue to thrive… but in the meantime, here’s what any responsible horse breeder should do:

1# DON’T birth an un-traited bundle. By traited I mean long mane/tail/coat and hair conditions and special eyes. Even if you’re 100% convinced that by birthing the bundle it will turn out to be a colt and you’ll be able to make some lindens don’t be so sure..the market is a tad jiittery at the moment and you may find yourself stuck with a horse you don’t want or need. If that is the case, take it into your inventory; designate a folder for horse that you will perhaps consider sending to Horse Haven when it’s released.

2# When selling horses don’t undercut market value. Fortunately a LOT of breeders are being VERY vocal about people selling bundles at L$100 a shot..even though it may seem like a great way to make a quick buck, in the long term it is damaging to the market, and brings the value of the horses down. There’s a notecard doing the rounds with a suggested pricing structure on it for horses/bundles ( IM me if you’d like a copy) and it makes some sense that someone (Sadly I don’t know who- if you know who produced it please IM me and I’ll give them a credit here on the blog) has taken this brave move to try and evaluate what a horse is worth and how much it should be sold for. You may not agree, but you cannot condone them for giving it a shot!

3# Remember; it’s just a game! You DON’T have to have a huge collection of horses to make some Lindens. A couple of mares and a stallion with exceptional traits will probably do you more good in the long-term than a herd of forty horses that you struggle to feed and manage. Which leads me on to the next point..

4# It’s NOT all about the Lindens. The secondary market is a huge element of the breedable game of course, but actually owning and riding the horses is tons of fun. You can buy some beautiful saddles and accessories for your horses and there are some great horse trails on the grid, and of course you can get some stunning riding outfits too!

Which leads me on to my most important point of all…..

Relax and enjoy your horses, that’s the most important element of the game. Don’t you think it’s sad to think of all the breeders out there that have never saddled up and rode a horse around a beautiful sim? Besides, I look hot when I’m riding horses, and I don’t mean in a sweaty way….(evidence below!)