Sometimes in life you have to get a little lost before you are truly able to find your way.

Archive for the ‘Pets’ Category

Recovering Plan-a-holic

I grew up a planner. I planned everything. Always. I had back up plans. I had backup plans for my backup plans. I did this from the time I was a little kid until I was an adult…sitting amidst the ruins of years worth of failed plans. Then I realized, life simply can’t be planned…at least not in any long-term fashion. (SHOCKER – I know! – well at least now you can’t say I never taught you anything!) One more important matter – it never pays to get attached to our plans.

There is a wonderful Chinese proverb that states that “To enjoy the life we deserve, we must first let go of the one we planned.” I used to read that saying every week while sitting in the waiting room of my therapist’s office. I would recite it over and over until I felt like I could MAYBE start doing it rather than just reading it. That went a little something like this…

“Ok, so I’m not married to my college sweetheart. And we don’t have a cute house in a great neighborhood. Our home isn’t filled with two kids (Jacob and Kiley) and our two dogs – Nala (our German Shepherd) and Tucker (our Golden) – in           addition to Piper and Chloe, of course. Instead, I’m 34, never married, not dating anyone, no kids and no dogs. And never owned a home. Drifting between the homes of friends and family while still waging a war against my own body and fighting desperately for social security disability.”

Eh – no problem – that other life, the one I had planned in absurd detail – it probably wouldn’t have been so great anyway. Ok – so it’s still hard sometimes not to at least wonder about that life. But here’s what’s more important, and more exciting. This life – the actual day-to-day real one that I never planned and often don’t know if I can handle – this one is full of undiscovered potential. Yes, that’s right I said POTENTIAL. And if you think it’s tough to imagine loads of potential while huddled in a painful ball in a dark, silent room…you’re sometimes right. But practice really does make perfect. And I’m getting there. I might not have all the things I imagined I would at this stage of my life. But I have a great deal more strength and resilience and faith than I ever would have if things had just gone according to plan. So I am hopeful and optimistic, and yes, even grateful. Not for losing the man I loved, but for the ways this life has tested me and fortified me. And for all the possibilities that remain.

Speaking of possibilities – this week has brought a firestorm of opportunity (and challenge). I learned that our request for an expedited Social Security Disability Hearing had been approved and that it will take place tomorrow at 2 pm. From the time I learned this until…well, earlier tonight, I have prepared and planned and stressed and planned some more. I have been frustrated with my attorney who, in my estimation has not done nearly enough of any of those things. But I sit here now and I realize – I can’t plan or stress tomorrow into being successful. Yes, preparation is needed. But I went far beyond preparation. I was looking for something that does not exist. I wanted a guarantee. And my hearing tomorrow, as with all things in life – comes with no guarantee. So I will go in as prepared as I can. I will let go of all the planning and the resentment toward my attorney. I must simply accept that he knows how to do his job better than I do.

I will either win the appeal or not. But it will all happen one step at a time. I’ll finish this post. I’ll relax and spend time with my mom and step-dad and cuddle with my cats. I’ll (hopefully) get a good night’s rest. I’ll get up and take tomorrow, similarly, one step at a time. Then, after putting one foot in front of the other through this incredibly important day, my hearing will be over. And both my lawyer and I will have done all we can do until the judge renders a decision. And I am (almost alarmingly so) at peace with that.

I spoke with a friend earlier tonight. He questioned me about what I will do if the judge rules against me. Fighting everything in me that yearns to plan for every contingency….I simply said, “I don’t know. I will cross that bridge when..IF…I come to it.” I smiled, pleased with myself. I must be doing something right. I’ve apparently learned a lesson somewhere along the way. And in this particular moment, it appears that my energy could be put to far better use than planning that which cannot be planned! If you don’t believe me…just as Chloe…

International cat sign for “GET OFF THE COMPUTER AND PAY ATTENTION TO ME!”

Saving my Baby

I write a lot about how much I love my animals and how much they do for me and how I would do anything for them. We all say that…”I would do anything for”…fill in the blank. The hard part comes when aren’t able to keep that promise. I love my munchkins so much it hurts. But reality is what it is. I have limitations – physical and otherwise.

One of my two cats, Piper, is really sick. She needs surgery. I’ve done everything I can do for her. I have worked with multiple vets who have been incredibly kind and generous. She is a fighter. She’s been getting by with supportive care longer than anyone expected. But she needs this surgery. Her pancreas is already incredibly compromised, as is her liver, and her kidneys will be next.

I have set up a fundraising Web site to try to raise the money for her surgery. I know that most people reading this blog are in tough physical and financial situations just like I am. I appreciate that. I know many of you depend on your furry friends just like I do. Or you have organizations devoted to promoting the healing power of the connection between humans and animals. Even the smallest gift would be immeasurably appreciated.

Please check out the Web site: Save Piper! and forward it to as many people as you can. The more people that see it, the better chance we have of raising the money that will save her life.

Thank you so much – from my heart and hers!

Furry Medicine

It’s a cold, rainy day. The kind that makes you want to stay in bed with a good book or a movie and a nice warm blanket and cup of hot chocolate, and of course a furry companion. Annie is curled up next to me on the couch. Somehow she knows. She knows I don’t have the strength or the energy to get dressed to go walk in the rain. And that even if I did it would hurt too much. I know it sounds crazy but it’s true. When anyone else is home she goes crazy and begs to be taken out no matter what the weather is because her energy is absolutely boundless. But when it’s just me and her, she knows. She knows my good days from my bad days. Sometimes she even knows them better than me. Knows when to push me when I think I can’t possibly handle a big, long walk but I do it because she seems to not be able to handle staying in. And usually I find that she was right and I feel better.

It’s amazing how much she can tell about what’s going on with my body. Amazing how willing she is at just three years to lie by my side all day long on my bad days without whining or making trouble. She’s so much more than just a dog. She listens to all my drafts before I publish anything or send off any important e-mail or letter. She’s my sounding board whenever I need to work out some problem…whether it’s a real problem or some stupid nonsense I’m wasting time over – she humors me just the same, looking up from under those expressive eye brows, often with paws crossed. She sighs a lot. That’s when I know I’ve been talking too long and it’s time to play for a while or at least indulge her with some serious belly rubbin’.

Piper and Chloe (the cats) are the rest of my furry companion squad. Piper is the comedienne of the bunch, and by far the biggest conversationalist. We have extensive conversations. I have no idea what she’s saying most of the time, but she clearly understands everything I say because she responds to everything right away. She stayed with my mom for a few months once when I was in the midst of a complicated move. Once I was settled I picked them up and I called my mom a few weeks later to see if she was missing them. She said “Well, no. Not exactly. Although it sure is quiet around here. I don’t have anyone to talk to anymore with Piper gone!”

Chloe is my special cuddle bug. It doesn’t matter what time of day or night, she is ALWAYS there to cuddle. If I need to cry and cuddle she’s there. If I need to talk and cuddle, she’s there. If I need to sleep and cuddle, she’s there. If I need to write and get some work done, well, she’s still there! But I’ve learned to type with Chloe draped across my arms. And she has the best purr to fall asleep to; it’s hypnotizing.

There’s a lot of research about the positive effects of therapy dogs and other types of therapy animals. I know my three angels haven’t had any formal training, but I also know this…they have done at least as much good as all the medication I have ever been prescribed, if not more. They make me laugh; they lick my tears away and are the most faithful of all companions a girl…sick or healthy could ever ask for. I can only hope to be able to give back to them even a fraction of the joy and comfort they have given me.

Thanks for the Reminder

Meet Ashki.  My friend John and I found him on the side of the road on our way home from the dog park. He stumbled and fell over. He was quite literally near death. His entire skeleton was visible. His head, as you can see, was the largest part of his body. He was absolutely emaciated.

My mind was racing but my training took over. I was ready for any of the numerous reactions that a sick animal might have when approached. I had some emergency medical supplies in my trunk which I grabbed immediately before dashing across the street, then slowing as I neared the area where Ashki had collapsed. As I got close he tried to take a few steps away. I put out my hand and greeted him with a soothing voice from a safe distance. He turned around and slumped toward me, attempting what appeared to be his best shot at a meow. I got closer and as I did he struggled to get closer to me. When I reached him his exhausted little head fell into my hands. My heart shattered all over the edge of the field I was crouched in. My dog, Annie was in my car still, going crazy. I tied her up in back as best I could and handed the wrapped up little cat to John with instructions to him to guard it with his life and instructions to Annie to LAY DOWN and LEAVE IT!

Luckily we were only about 3 minutes from the nearest vet I knew so we raced straight there. I rushed Ashki (still nameless at the time) through the front door and begged the vet to see him. Everyone gasped when I unveiled the sick little cat. The prognosis wasn’t good. They couldn’t do much without a lot of expensive tests which I couldn’t afford so they sent me to the local shelter. I was wary, but I went anyway and had a vet tech friend meet me there. I had to wait for the shelter to open for about half an hour. First rule of emergency care with an animal in Ashki’s condition…hydrate first before food. I tried to get him to take some water. No go. Not a surprise. The surprise, he was climbing all over me and purring and acting like any cat who’s human had been away on a long trip. I couldn’t figure out how this little skeleton was moving at all! After some serious scratching and tummy rubbin’ he finally took the water…practically dove in actually. He wasn’t not thirsty; it was simply that in that moment his need for affection outweighed his need for hydration (in his mind anyway…any doctor would certainly have disagreed!)

The folks at the shelter took one look at him and said they would just put him down. So we left. We figured we’d do supportive care for a few days, see if we could get some weight on him, and if he responded, get him in for testing. He deserved that much of a chance at least. One thing was clear: this cat was a fighter, and if he could survive he would make an incredible companion for some lucky family.

After three days of eating and drinking like a champ, Ashki got a well deserved trip to the vet thanks to my kind-hearted vet tech friend who footed the bill. I got the call early that afternoon. Ashki tested positive for feline leukemia. UHG. I knew it was a strong possibility. I had already been on my way to the vet’s office when I got the call. I spent the whole afternoon with him. He played; he slept; he climbed all over me. It was another afternoon for Ashki. No resentment for what he’d been through, no fear for what lay ahead.

Here’s what really amazes me. This cat was someone’s pet at one point. He was neutered. He CRAVED affection. He was alone along a stretch of road with few houses. He was so emaciated that his condition had been deteriorating for a significant amount of time. There are any number of possible ways he could have ended up on the side of the road that day. Perhaps his family moved and left him behind. Perhaps his owner died. Maybe his humans simply didn’t know what to do with the ailing cat and took the cowardly way out and drove down the long, quiet stretch of road and tossed him out the window. I’ll never know. But somehow, he was failed by his humans. Yet when faced with the next human to cross his path, he had only affection to give. There were no signs of fear or aggression.  He lived only in the moment. There was no trace of the betrayals of his past. If only we could all live so presently.

Ashki faced every moment that I knew him with courage and affection. To watch him, you’d think he was completely unaware of how sick he was. His last days were as comfortable as possible. He had a warm, comfortable place to sleep, plenty of food, water and affection. He passed peacefully surrounded by people who cared, with his head cradled in my hands, his favorite way to sleep. What more can any of us ask for really? For those of us who face pain or illness, let us face it bravely, live for each moment, and share genuine affection with our loved ones without taking a moment for granted. It’s not about the crappy hand we’ve been dealt or what better place we’re going to get to next. There are good things to be found in every day that we live. There are no guarantees of any future. All we have is NOW. Mary Gelpi of Fibromy-Awesome had some pretty profound words to say about living presently in her recent post entitled Leggo My Ego. I highly recommend checking it out!

Ashki’s name means “affection” in kiswahili. From the first moment he stumbled into my hands it was clear, Ashki was the living embodiment of affection. He was a treasure and a gift and I am honored to have been a part of his story and to be able to share it with you.

Thank you and Screw you!

To the kind stranger on the bus, my appearance must have matched how I was feeling the other day when you offered me your seat. It was a long ride and you didn’t have to do that. I want you to know how very grateful I am for your genuine kindness. Thank you.

To my beloved furry friends, you have been by my side during every high and low of this remarkably long journey. You never waver. We celebrate together, we get knocked down together; and get right back up together…we endure together. You embody all that is unconditional. I love each of you so much. Thank you.

To my Coworker, you are just awful. Daily you put on your little show of friendship while undermining me further and further. You betrayed my confidence and revealed sensitive information regarding my medical condition to our boss all in an effort to take my job. How do you live with yourself? Screw you.

To my Doctor, Thank you for finally being the first to not give up on me. To not tell me that my only option is pain management with narcotics. To commit to finding the real answers, no matter what it took. For not being afraid to admit that you don’t have the answers right now, but we’ll figure it out together no matter how many specialists we have to work with. Thank you for being so committed to helping me stop just surviving, and finding a way to start living again! Thank you!

Dear random person on the street full of judgement and ignorance, you don’t even know I exist. You have no idea I overheard your horrible conversation the other day about the guy from your office who was “annoying the crap out of you” because your boss had agreed to give him a special schedule because “he freaking has headaches or some shit.” You said “it’s a freaking headache, get over it already! If I whined and asked to go home every time I got a headache I’d never get anything done!” Then I heard you say the word “cluster.” You even said that you had no idea what it was! You admitted that you are not educated about what this man is going through, and yet you have no problem judging him or your boss for his need to have an altered work schedule? I highly suggest that you do look up cluster headaches and I pray that you will never have first hand experience of what your co-worker is going through as it is one of the most painful headache disorders known to man! Screw you!

To my Dear Friend, you have been there for me, been there with me, literally, through so many difficult times, and equally, I am so pleased to be able to say, through so many wonderful moments over the years. Ours is a bond that is seemingly unbreakable. I am so grateful to you for so many, many things. Thank you!

Dear Wonderful Coworker, Thank you for being so fair, and brave. We hardly knew one another, but you saw something unjust taking place, and you came to me with the truth just in time for me to save myself. I am so grateful to you for your amazing strength of character, your grace and your selflessness. Thank you!

To my Boss, I know you are still young and fairly inexperienced. I make some allowances for that. Only some. Rather than comment on the past, I will wish you better for the future. I will hope that you will learn from the mistakes that have been made. I will hope that my life will have impacted you significantly enough that should you again work with someone with a chronic illness, you will remember how much more effort it takes to do the same work, and that he or she is coming to work sick/in pain everyday, so if they are calling out sick, it’s because things are really, REALLY bad, and that your remarks questioning the veracity of their claim are entirely inappropriate. I know not everyone who suffers from chronic conditions is a paragon of truth, so of course, use your discretion, but that, I would hope, would already have been done before you hire. Going forward, please keep in mind what people go through. Try to imagine walking in their shoes before you hit them over the head with them. Screw you!

To my Family, I know that my illness has taken a great toll on you all, but you have supported me in so many amazing ways. I know that you have not always agreed with all of my treatment options, but you’ve recognized that all options had to be explored. I know that above all else, it has been so difficult to not be able to fix any of this for me, to not be able to make me feel better, not to be able to make it right or lessen my pain. But you have all been with me along this journey, sometimes literally!…but always supporting me in ways that I have needed. I know you hate all the medication, but thank you for finally realizing that I have exhausted all of the other options. It is not ideal; I do not enjoy it, but I accept it and it makes me better. I am grateful to each of you for all the many ways you have helped me pass the point of just existing, just surviving, so I can get back to living. Thank you.

To my Love, this battle has taken perhaps that greatest toll on you. You have had to live it with me every day. Through every high and every low. Every dashed hope, every failed treatment. Every insurance battle and long night in the E.R. You have weathered all of my positive moments and my hopeless crashes and burns. You’ve played chauffeur, nurse, (despite your fear of needles!), even cook and maid when I could get off the couch for months on end. You’ve gone to extremes I would never have asked or expected. There were good moments. There were not so good moments. But you loved me through all the moments. Each and every one. I am so grateful for the many ways you saved my life. Sadly it cost us our life together.

To myself, thank you for getting up and tackling each day as an opportunity. THANK YOU!

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