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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Let the Healing Begin/Let The Sunshine In

On Thursday afternoon, June 24th, I drove home from my final radiation treatment with the sunroof down, the song “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” blasting from the CD player and my vocals working hard to keep up with Marilyn McCoo’s high notes.  A few weeks ago I couldn’t belt out much more than a squeak.  Cancer treatments even wore out my vocal cords in addition to every other muscle and organ in my body. I was emotionally and mentally drained at this point, but overjoyed with relief after having just completed the last of thirty-six radiation treatments over the past seven weeks.  I was done with having cancer and enduring chemo, surgery and radiation.  My only duty now was to heal from all that, which would take probably just as much patience as it did to undergo those harsh treatments.

As I approached Laguna Beach, while inhaling the salty sea aroma and watching giant waves crash against a lofty cliff jutting out into the ocean, it occurred to me that it was almost eight months ago to the day that I’d been diagnosed with endometrial cancer, which ended up being stage IIIC—fairly advanced.  On that day, I had driven down Pacific Coast Highway on the way home from Hoag Hospital shaking with uncontrollable sobs and mental chatter driven by fear, which drowned out the sound of crashing waves and whatever song was playing on the radio.

As my drive home from my final radiation treatment continued, I reflected back to what has transpired over the past year since cancer made itself known with it sneaky symptoms that I initially thought were stress or a hormonal imbalance.

I’ve gone through varying types and phases of physical, emotional and mental torture beyond anything that my imagination could have concocted.   And this went on for seemingly so long, it’s hard to believe that the curtain finally closed on the debilitating dance that cancer and treatments choreographed in my body.  But the overwhelming sense of joy I felt as I made my way towards home was proof that the real-life nightmare was over.  The only thing missing from my celebratory drive home from Hoag Hospital was my long hair blowing in the wind.

Heather, one of the radiation therapists, all of whom were so inspirational and kept me coming back during those days when I almost quit. They were such a joy to work with.

Ringing the bell after my last radiation treatment.

Just a few days before my last zap of radiation, I awoke feeling so beat-up, I was questioning if I could even get myself to Hoag for my thirty-third radiation treatment.  I have to move, I thought to myself.  I rolled out my yoga mat and after several Sun Salutations, Warrior poses and overall body stretches, I truly felt better.  I got up to make breakfast and in the meantime, Samantha took advantage of the yoga mat still on the floor and showed-off some of her own feline style yoga poses.

Let the healing begin—and let the sunshine in!

Alisa and Kurtis who were part of my kick cancer team!

To my “Help Cat Lady Kick Cancer” team of precious family members, friends and my supportive blogger and social media follower friends, THANK YOU with all my heart for your undying support and love.  I could not have been a cancer-fighting warrior without you!

And I have such gratitude for my loving Bobcat (RIP) and new feline sweetie-pie, Samantha, who are true testaments to the healing power of animals.

Bobcat…I miss you so much!

Samantha Jo, my new feline healer…you are so adorable!

XOXO

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