We’re Somewhere in Between

“Moving backwards, hurt comes after / Healing doesn’t happen in a straight line
Moving onwards, feeling strong, but / Healing doesn’t happen in a straight line”

Lyrics to “Justified” by Kasey Musgraves

At a Laguna Beach Business Club meeting a couple of weeks ago, a fellow member, in commenting on how healthy I looked said, “… You just bounced right back!”  I laughed and told her it depends on the day.  Appearances can be deceptive.  I’m learning my limits.  I’m learning that one does not bounce back from Stage IIIC endometrial cancer, major surgery, and chemo and radiation treatments in just a few months.  But I’m much further along than I was a few months ago.

Loving my warm welcome back with co-worker Danielle, who decorated my office.

I returned to work on October 4th after an eleven-month medical leave, working part-time and mostly from home.  I was ready to work again, but wasn’t anticipating that even a partial day at the office could be so draining, leaving me with just enough reserves in my tank to take care of Samantha Jo, the cottage and myself in the most basic of ways.   The vim and vigor I had to do those things that fuel my soul (volunteer work for The Blue Bell Foundation, working on my children’s book publishing efforts, walks along the beach) before I returned to work were gone.  Yet, it felt good to be productive, earning a paycheck again and having a daily routine.  I am grateful for that, and have accepted my temporary limitations.  I’ve had to incite self-discipline on many occasions—saying, “no can do”.  But it’s paying off.  I’m adapting to my new schedule and my strength and stamina are slowly creeping back. It feels good to run a couple errands at the end of the day and have a little fun on the weekends without feeling completely wiped out.

Me at the office; Samantha waiting for my return…

Samantha, my executive assistant.

And I also have the emotional and mental strength it takes to take care of Samantha who is also going through her own healing journey.  She was diagnosed with a medium sized bladder stone in October and responded well to an herbal supplement, Break It Up! by Natura Petz Organics, which breaks down bladder stones.  I was over-the-moon thrilled to see her kitten-like behavior return, and the best indicator of healing—no blood in her urine for almost two weeks!  Then external forces triggered high-anxiety in my cat-child.  A roaming neighborhood kitten who got too close to the cottage for Samantha’s comfort, a cat fight one night in the crawl space under the porch, the thumps and bangs of debris hitting the roof caused by harsh winds all happening within a bout a week’s time triggered high anxiety in my girl, which caused the cystitis to return.  Her behavior has stabilized, yet most of her urine puddles still contain some blood.  So…it’s back to the vet again.

Samantha Feelin’ Good before all the outside ruckus occurred.

Enjoying Halloween…

Me and my girl, we’re somewhere in between healing and healed.  Feeling good, but not great; feeling great, then feeling bad; riding out a plateau, then finally moving forward. We’re stumbling along the healing track together sometimes getting derailed, but we have each other, and together, we’ll get there.

Photo courtesy of Tarek Jadeba

In the meantime, we’re having some joyful moments!  Enjoy Samantha’s first video in the last scene.

Samantha turned 2 on November 20th! Happy Birthday, Baby!

Helped to decorate a Christmas tree for Blue Bell at Sawdust Festival’s Winter Fantasy!

Blue Bell’s tree won 3rd place in the tree decorating competition! Standing with Jenna, Blue Bell’s assistant director on the left and fellow volunteer Terri on the right.

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Busy Cat Lady and Crazy Cat

The past few weeks have been busy!  Finally, my life doesn’t just consist of reading, daily naps, bird watching in the yard and playing toss the pom pom with Samantha.

My post-cancer healing journey is picking up pace here, and although I’m still pacing myself by occasionally napping and know when to say no, I’m also being productive doing things I love.

The Blue Bell Foundation for Cats is having its seventh annual Cat’s Meow Champagne Brunch Fundraiser on Sunday, September 26th.  Over the past several years I’ve coordinated that event, but that duty was passed on to Blue Bell’s new assistant director this year.

Blue Bell residents Angelo (RIP) and Cody

I’m still a Cat’s Meow planning team member and have been having a blast working on promotional efforts and being the venue liaison.

Cat Lady with Ed Steinfeld, morning host on Laguna’s KX FM radio after my interview about Blue Bell, Cat’s Meow event and related topics

I named our family cat Beth after the same name of a song by 70s rock band Kiss. Does my t-shirt look familiar?

I dusted off my children’s book manuscript and am working on final edits with my editor, Lynette Brasfield, which has been a thrill.  I love it when the magic of words and ideas come together on paper and tell a story. After a gazillion versions, several critiques and frustrations over the last eleven years, the story, which includes protagonists Topper and Lexington (two of my kitty angels), is coming together. I don’t want to leave my story in the hands of chance as far as if it gets picked up by a publisher, so I’m going the self-publishing route.  Besides sidestepping the luck of the slush pile draw, the learning and creative process of what goes into making a book is just the challenge I need to start my new life chapter.

Children’s book muses, Topper and Lexington

I have not yet been able to enjoy evenings of live music at my favorite venue in town, The Cliff, as I’m pretty wiped out by dinnertime, but I did manage to get to my other happy place, the Sawdust Festival.  My energy levels picked up just in time for two afternoon visits to the longstanding beloved summer art show in Laguna Beach during its last week for the season.  I’m certain that being in the presence of artists and their works, live music, and the rustic ambience of Laguna Canyon, an alternate universe radiating joy and love, has aided in my healing.

Listening to classic rock at Sawdust

Visiting with artist Michelle S. Burt at Sawdust

Meanwhile, back at the cat cottage, Samantha has become more at peace with her new home and new cat mama, although quelling her overly sensitive nervous system that triggers cystitis, remains an ongoing challenge.  Last weekend high anxiety kicked her nervous behavior into high gear, starting Friday with incessant meows while scratching every cupboard door in the cottage, nervously pacing from room to room until she leapt from a countertop onto the top of the fridge to a ceiling beam, to all surfaces on high.

Crazy Cat Eyes

I finally calmed her down with gabapentin; but when that wore off on Saturday, she became crazy cat again.  I concluded that her behavior was triggered by the nightly outside goings-on of squeaking and scurrying rats.  I sprayed a nontoxic repellent in suspected areas, and by Sunday she’d calmed down.  Those rats must have scurried off to another nest.

For the moment, with Samantha peacefully sleeping on the small rattan console next to my desk as I write, all is right in our little world.

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Getting Stronger

After all you put me through / You’d think I’d despise you / But in the end, I wanna thank you / ‘Cause you made me that much stronger / Cause if it wasn’t for all that you tried to do / I wouldn’t know just how capable I am to pull through / So I wanna say thank you / ‘Cause it makes me that much stronger / Makes me work a little bit harder / Makes me that much wiser / So thanks for making me a fighter…”

Lyrics from “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera

I pulled a Christina Aguilera CD out of my collection and popped it into the CD player in my car for some listening pleasure on the way to an appointment at Hoag.  My strength and energy, which were slowly making a comeback since my final cancer treatment seven weeks prior were waning.  I started feeling worse—not better.   My nurse reminded me that healing isn’t linear, but to make sure nothing else was going on, she had a couple blood tests ordered.  I drove along the coast singing empowering phrases along with Christina’s powerful voice, feeling momentarily rejuvenated, and thanking cancer for making me stronger in so many ways, despite all it put me through.

I wasn’t the only one in the household dealing with health issues.  Samantha had a debilitating bout of feline idiopathic cystitis or FIC (inflamed bladder with no apparent cause) in early June.  We’d been back and forth to the vet four times in one month.  FIC is hard to treat because it has no identifiable cause, such as infection.  Many cats that get FIC are neurologically hardwired a little differently in that they are extra sensitive to noise and tend to be in a constant state of “fight or flight”, triggering an over reactive stress response causing bladder inflammation. FIC is also more prevalent in males and overweight cats (the above link covers all risk factors).  FIC can be outgrown, but it can also be a life-long condition to be managed.  Keeping kitty’s environment as stress-free as possible, proper diet and lots of hydration are the best medicine.

Upon learning all of this, I had an “ah ha” moment revealing what triggered the initial episode in Samantha being with me (she’d had it with her prior human, but wasn’t treated properly and it turned into bladder stones).  It was a few nights before she displayed symptoms when I had a meltdown at 2:00 a.m. from being so beat-up from the cumulative effect of cancer treatments.  The relentless GI issues that kept me from sleep and intense hives that could not be cured with any sort of meds caused me to belt out a scream of shear frustration and defeat that night.  I was so tired, and sick of being sick that I lost it—until in the middle of that manic moment, Samantha came to mind and stifled my outburst.  I got out of bed and turned on a light, and found her in the living room sitting upright and ridged facing the bedroom.  “Oh sweetie!  I’m so sorry!” I said through sobs as I hugged her.  She looked up at me and started anxiously blinking her eyes over and over as though she was trying to calm me, but I think she was also trying to calm herself.  Here she was still adjusting to a new home, and to my energy that was going in a downward spiral as radiation progressed, and now she was faced with cat mom gone mad.

Guilt weighed heavy on my heart for weeks.  I let it go when I realized that manic moment was normal given my situation, and more important, part of Samantha’s healing regimen included me.  I had to muster up enough strength not just to get through the final leg of radiation but also for Samantha’s well being.  I had to be strong for her.  I had to be positive for her.  It wasn’t just about me anymore.

My blood test results turned out to be fine.  Feeling debilitated on occasion along the way is part of the healing path.  In hindsight, I was doing too much.  Now, besides getting more rest and not pushing myself, I’ve turned to doing more things that cultivate healing, which in turn, are helping Samantha.  The energy in the cottage is more peaceful. I’m feeling better and more grounded.  And Samantha—she’s become more playful again; more affectionate and is showing outward signs of de-stressing.

I made the side patio escape-proof and created a catio! It’s been a joy to work on and Samantha’s stress levels have diminished (work in progress, here).

Catio complete!

Cottage Cat

Purrmaid Garden

Rearranging furniture and decor has been cathartic.

Samantha approves!

This book has daily messages of inspiration; it’s been so helpful. I read a passage each morning.

Sending loving vibes to you all!

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